Chapter 14: Another Good Catch
Back on patrol. Thank God we didn’t have to babysit those so-called “witnesses.” I think it’s pretty clear that most of them – hell, maybe all of them – didn’t see a damned thing. But now I understand why they came forward. If I were homeless and living on skid row, the opportunity to spend a few hours in a police station with chairs and air conditioning and free food and coffee would seem like the deal of a lifetime. I’d lie through my teeth to get it. But the fact that nobody seemed to be sure of the dead guy’s name really struck me: how is that even possible? The people out here are packed together like sardines. There are more people per square yard out here than anyplace I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of Fenway Park on the season opener. They must’ve seen this guy every day and night. How could nobody know his name? How could he remain anonymous like that? I thought about the way these guys can disappear into the background at night: maybe it has something to do with that? Maybe they can disappear in more ways than one? In a way, I kind of envy them. When I was going through all of that shit last year, there were times when I just wanted to disappear. Just vanish. I felt like everybody around me knew who I was and they were staring at me. Judging me. Hating me. So I stopped going anywhere unless I had to. I wasn’t being paranoid, either. That damned video was everywhere. So were the newspaper articles. And social media? Don’t even get me started on that. I would’ve given anything to be able to turn invisible and just walk around unnoticed. But this guy got killed! He was murdered! Somebody should come forward; even if it’s just to tell us his name. The rules really are different out here. And a lot of them really suck.
“Harper, let’s check that alley by the Prophet’s Wall. I want to see what’s going on there, tonight.”
“You really like that place.”
“I think it’s neat. Besides, on a night like this…who knows?”
“You got it. Let’s see who’s hanging out there.”
“We’d better hurry. Sergeant Gellar says we might go on Tac Alert tonight.”
“Yeah, I thought they would’ve done it already.”
“No Watch Commander wants to do that if he can avoid it. It’s a real mess.”
“Why is it such a big deal? So everyone gets held over for a while?”
“It’s a lot more than that. For one thing, we stop responding to anything but a priority call. Everyone else gets told ‘You’re on your own, pal.’ And if we’re going nuts, then the other divisions might be going nuts, too. We go on Tac Alert and the other divisions in the Bureau end up dropping calls because they’re getting pulled into our division. That’s when the other Watch Commanders call him up and start bitching. He’s got to listen to that shit. Plus, he’s going to have to explain it to the Bureau Commander. Some of them don’t take too kindly to hearing that you just threw a monkey wrench into the city’s workings.”
“So it’s the politics?”
“Unfortunately, yes. A lot of it is, anyway. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid the politics.”
“I guess I’m lucky I’m a boot. I don’t have to worry about that shit.”
“Even boots get dragged in sometimes. Take probation, for instance. You’re lucky you’re a guy. There are plenty of training officers who don’t think women should be on the job, and they’re not shy about letting you know it. That’s politics for you.”
“Did you run into that?”
“Oh, hell yes! I had training officers who hated having me as a boot! And they made my life miserable because of it.”
“Why? You’re a damned good cop. I figure you had to be a damned good boot.”
“I was. And sometimes that made it worse. Some guys didn’t like the fact that I knew what I was doing. They didn’t like it that I learned so fast. I sometimes used to think it would be easier if I was a fuck-up.”
“Is it? Are you telling me you don’t know anyone who doesn’t think women shouldn’t be on the job?”
Now, that was unfair. I shouldn’t have put him on the spot like that. Of course he knows guys who think women shouldn’t be cops. Some of them might be his friends. I’d better let him off the hook, fast!
“I’m not asking for any names. I’m just saying, you probably know a few.”
“Yeah, I know a few.”
“And I’ll bet some of them probably felt sorry for you when they heard you were assigned to me. And I don’t mean because I’m on the department’s shit list.”
“If they did, they were wrong. You’re the best partner I’ve ever had.”
OK, that’s a little over the top. Harper’s not given to bullshit flattery.
“Do really you mean that? Or are you just sucking up because I have to write something in your book by the end of the week?”
“I mean it. I told you before: you’re the best cop I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some good ones already. But none of them are as good as you.”
“Thanks. It’s nice to be appreciated. And for what it’s worth; you’re the best partner I’ve ever had.”
“Best partner or best boot?”
“Both. I mean that. God, when I think of some of the boots I’ve had!”
“You have no idea! There were times when I thought they deliberately assigned me the worst of the lot.”
“So who was the worst?”
Good question. I’ve wondered that myself, sometimes. But I honestly don’t know. I couldn’t tell you which of the bad boots was the worst one I ever had. That should tell you just how bad they were.
“I’m not sure. I don’t want to mention any names. Some of them are still on the job. Hell, some of them are sergeants by now.”
“Forget the names. Just give me an example.”
Jesus! Where do I start with that one? Over the years, I’ve sometimes thought I was cursed for being a training officer. Some of those boots? Good God! How did they make it past the screening?
“Well, I got one moron a week after he accidentally shot his training officer.”
Wait for it!
“You’re shitting me! He shot his training officer?”
“Yep. And it wasn’t some split-second, life-or-death decision, either. A guy bailed out of a stolen car during a pursuit in Woodlawn and we went looking for him. Something spooked the boot during the search and he cranked off a round right into his partner’s back.”
“Hey, I’m not making this up! You can’t make this shit up! Thank God the vest took it! The guy wasn’t hurt, but by the time my partner and I got to the scene, he was ready to return fire! Boy, was he ever pissed!”
“Yeah, I can imagine! Is that boot still on the job?”
“As far as I know. I had another guy who was Phase Three and didn’t know how to load a shotgun. He knew how to kill somebody with it, but he didn’t know how to load it. And then there was the fucking idiot who, when we got into a knock-down/drag-out with some crazy guy, he didn’t jump in. He just stood there, staring at me while the suspect beat the crap out of me. Talk about useless!”
“Are you shitting me? You were in a fight and your partner didn’t jump in?”
“Nope. He pretty much sat there like a bump on a log while I got my ass kicked. And that psycho was big! Definitely a weightlifter-type. Damn, he was strong! I finally managed to get one cuff on the guy, and I hooked the other one to a fence along the sidewalk. That was the only reason I was able to get away. I really thought I was going to have to shoot the son of a bitch. And I’d already decided that if I ended up shooting the suspect, then I was going to shoot the fucking boot right afterward!”
“Did you get hurt?”
“Black eye, split lip, sprained wrist, bruised ribs, and a very bloody nose.”
“I told you: I’ve had my ass kicked big time over the years. And once I got the guy hooked to the fence, my idiot boot ran up and sprayed a shitload of pepper gas right in the guy’s face! He was about a foot away from him and he must have used up half the goddamned can! The guy ended up with a chemical burn on his face from the overdose of pepper gas, and we had to take him to the hospital. On top of everything else, I had to explain why my fucking boot did it. It was ruled totally out of policy. I almost ended up with an excessive force beef as a result! And I didn’t spray the guy!”
“And they didn’t fire this asshole?”
“Nope. He’s probably a captain by now.”
“That’s fucking unbelievable!”
“Believe it. And remember it. Someday, you’ll be a training officer. Be ready for it.”
“I’m not sure I want to be, after that!”
Yeah, I think these boot horror stories are what keep a lot of cops from ever taking the PIII exam. Sometimes, I think I should’ve listened to them.
“The funniest one was this one guy I had who thought he was the toughest son of a bitch in the world. Mister Macho. God, what a nightmare he was! He was always picking fights with suspects; trying to go toe-to-toe with them. God, he hated me! He hated having a female training officer, and every time I had to reign him in, it offended his manhood. He’d go back to the locker room and talk all kinds of shit about me. That was three DPs of pure hell.”
“So what happened? Did he end up getting his ass kicked?”
“Worse! One night, we were searching for an ADW suspect. We were assisting the K9 unit. The suspect ran through the houses. The original unit lost sight of him, but we had a pretty good idea of where he was hiding. So we came across this garage in a back yard and the side door was open. We figured the suspect was probably hiding in there. So the K9 handler goes in with the dog, and we were right behind him. Sure enough, the suspect’s in there. He’s hiding under a table with a bunch of old paint cans and shit like that. So the K9 handler tells the guy, ‘Come out or the dog is going to bite you in the ass!’ The dumb son of a bitch jumps out and lunges at the K9 handler, and the dog goes right for him!”
“Tell me about it! Now, I think you and I can agree that when a great big German Shepherd starts biting the shit out of a guy, you stay the hell out of its way! I mean, you don’t need ten years on the job to know that much.”
“That’s just common sense.”
“You would think so, wouldn’t you? But my boot – Mister Macho – he runs past me and the K9 handler and jumps into the fight! Never mind the fact that if anything goes wrong, he’s now in our line of fire. He’d probably get shot as many times as the suspect. I’ve got my gun at the low ready, just in case the suspect tries to hurt the dog. So did the K9 handler. But my stupid fucking boot starts fighting with the suspect! He’s grabbing him and punching him! Now, do you think a dog can tell the difference between two idiots mixing it up right in front of him?”
“Uh, I wouldn’t think so.”
“Well, you’re right! He can’t! So the dog being a dog, he bites my fucking boot right on the ass! I mean, he just tore into his ass! Sank his teeth all the way in! The stupid boot is screaming his head off, and the dog is hanging on to his ass for dear life! He just wouldn’t let go! The K9 handler is trying to call the dog off, but the boot is thrashing around and screaming so much that the dog’s in fear for his life! So he keeps biting the stupid motherfucker! The boot is turning left and right to try to shake the dog, and the dog is actually swinging from side to side off of his ass while he does it! It’s like he had a death grip on the boot’s ass!”
“So now the boot is screaming at the top of his lungs, I’m losing my goddamned mind, the suspect is laughing his ass off, and the K9 handler is trying anything to get control of the crazy dog! It was total fucking chaos!”
“What did the suspect do?”
“At least he was smart enough to know that he was cornered! He dropped to his knees and gave up. He’s still laughing his ass off, though. My stupid fucking boot finally calms down enough for the K9 handler to call off the dog, but the damage is done. The whole seat of his pants are torn off: his shorts are shredded, and his big fucking ass crack is staring us in the face! I can see the blood coming out of the bites. Then the stupid boot falls down and starts screaming even louder because he’s in so much pain, and now even the dog is looking at him like he’s fucking crazy!”
“How bad was he hurt?”
“Pretty bad, actually. In fact, it was one of the worst injuries I’ve ever seen a dog inflict on anyone. He tore a huge chunk out of his ass! It was ugly! He ended up with a shitload of stitches. His ass was torn up so bad that he couldn’t walk. He was off for almost three weeks after that. And of course, I got grilled over why he did such a stupid thing, and didn’t I train him better than that, and why didn’t I exercise control of the situation? Blah, blah, blah! Jesus Christ, I wanted to kill him myself!”
“So what happened to him?”
“I think he’s like, I don’t know, eighth in line to be Chief of Police.”
OK, I’m kidding. But the fucking moron is still on the job. I know that for a fact.
“So how come you became a training officer?”
“For the stripes. They look nice on my uniform.”
“Come on, Dani! I’m serious!”
“Seriously, it’s because I’m good at my job and I like sharing that with people. And because there are so many people promoted to training officer that have no desire to train anyone that a lot of people come out of the academy and don’t learn a damned thing until they get off of probation. That’s just ridiculous in more ways than I can count. The whole city loses when that happens.”
“What would you say makes a bad training officer?”
“Basically, any training officer who isn’t training boots properly. They’re the ones who tell their boots to keep their mouths shut, their ears open, do exactly what I say and nothing else, and don’t waste my time with stupid questions. Tell me you haven’t had at least one of those?”
“Oh, I’ve had more than one of those.”
“Then you understand. You do that to someone for a year, and by the time they get off of probation, what are they? Good cops? Hell, no! They’re the perfect day one, fresh out of the academy boot! They’ve never had a chance to think for themselves. They’ve never had a chance to ask important questions because they think their training officer will call them stupid. They’ve never learned how to work with a partner as a team. They’ve never gotten a feel for the job because all they’ve been allowed to do is play ‘follow the leader.’ That’s not training someone. That’s shirking your duty. And what happens to these guys when they get wheeled to another division and everyone expects them to be functional cops? They can’t do the job. They have to learn everything they should’ve learned over the past year, but now they have to do it in a matter of weeks. It doesn’t work that way, and everyone loses.”
“You know, you’re the first person to say that to me. But I’ve always felt the same way. You can’t be a robot and do this job.”
“Thank God you were smart enough to realize that. That’s probably why you’re ahead of the curve.”
“Do you really think I’m ahead of the curve? I know you’ve said it a few times, but do you really think so?”
“Come on, Harper! You know damned well you’re way ahead of where most boots are. Hell, you’re way ahead of more than a few cops with five years on the job that I could name. I was lucky to get you.”
“So I guess we both got lucky.”
“Yeah, I guess we did. Sometimes things work out.”
“Hooray for us.”
“Damned right. We deserve it.”
We do deserve it. Frankly, everyone deserves it. The fact that they don’t get it is a crime.
“Here’s your alley, Dani. You know, you’re really beginning to love these alleys. Isn’t that a little weird?”
“What’s not to love? They’re a hell of a lot more interesting than anyplace else I’ve ever been.”
That’s got to be the understatement of the year. These alleys are a trip. I could spend all night wandering around in them. Hey, what have we got here? Do we have a junkie shooting up right in front of two police officers? That’s very disrespectful!
“I see him.”
“The white guy by the dumpster.”
“Yep. The one with the syringe.”
“Is he actually shooting up right in front of us?”
“Sure looks that way. Let’s talk to this guy.”
“Talk about a scofflaw!”
I know he saw us. He looked right at the car when we turned into the alley. Even without the light bar activated, the silhouette of the car makes it obvious it’s a police car.
“Harper, check the other side of the dumpster. Make sure no one’s hiding back there.”
“Hey, you! What the hell are you doing? You’re slamming right in front of two cops?”
“Uh-uh, Officer. I ain’t slamming. I’m just cleaning ’em out.”
“I said I’m cleaning ’em out.”
What the hell is this guy talking about? He’s sticking himself in the arm with a syringe! That’s called shooting up in any language.
“Exactly what are you cleaning out?”
“My abscesses. See? I got the abscesses on my arms.”
Holy fucking shit! Would you look at that! Those aren’t abscesses! Those are giant fucking holes in his goddamned arms! Jesus Christ! I think I can see his fucking arm bones! And what are those little things on them? Are those things moving? I think they’re maggots! Oh, God! That’s fucking disgusting!
“What the fuck happened to you? How did you get those?”
“Dirty needles, I guess. Maybe it’s the speedballs? I like the speedballs sometimes.”
“Harper! Come take a look at this!”
“Take a look at what? Oh, shit! What the fuck happened to you?”
“It’s the abscesses, sir. I got the…”
“Yeah, I can see that! Damn! Doesn’t that shit hurt?”
“Not as much as you’d think. But I got to clean ’em out, or else they get the infections. See that? That’s the infections.”
Holy mother of God! His flesh if fucking rotting! It looks like his arms are about to fall off! Look at those gigantic fucking holes! They must be two inches across! Holy shit! What the fuck is keeping his arms attached to his body? This guy is fucking beyond crazy!
“And you’re using a fucking spike to clean the holes in your arms? Are you out of your goddamned mind?”
“It’s all I got, Senior. Ain’t got no pocketknife for it. A pocketknife would be better, I suspect. But this does all right. You get the maggots out a lot easier with the needle.”
I think Harper’s looking a little green. I guess those fucking holes are making him sick, too.
“I think I’m going to puke! Oh, God! That fucking smell!”
“I don’t smell anything.”
“Come over here!”
What’s he talking about? Oh my God! Now I smell it! Fuck! It smells like a fucking dead body! Christ, now I think I’m going to puke!
“Jesus! Mister, how can you stand that smell?”
“I guess I’m used to it. Senior. It was pretty bad at first, but you know, being out here and all…”
“It smells like a rotting corpse!”
“Yeah, it’s rotting. Can’t help that. But I don’t think it’s the gangrene yet.”
“Gangrene? Are you telling us that’s gangrene?”
“I don’t think so. Not yet, anyway. The maggots help to eat the gangrene so you don’t get it too bad.”
How is this motherfucker so calm? If that’s gangrene, then he’s a fucking dead man!
“Harper, you talk to him. I’m going to go over there and puke my guts out.”
“Hey, I didn’t mean to upset you, Senior. I don’t want no trouble with the police.”
“I don’t think you upset her, pal. I think you just turned her stomach.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty nasty when you ain’t used to it. Living on the street; you get used to it.”
“I’ve got to say, you’ve got a really positive outlook on this.”
“It don’t pay to worry about it, sir. Shit happens. That’s all there is to it.”
Jesus! That’s his philosophy? “Shit happens?” If I were him, I’d have put a gun in my mouth long before I got that bad! How is this guy even alive?
“So what do you want to do with him, Dani?”
Is he kidding? I want to put him out of his fucking misery and burn the body!
“There’s nothing we can do for him. He’s definitely fucked.”
“Yeah, but he’s got a spike. We could take him in for possession of drug paraphernalia. What do you think?”
Is he serious? Is he fucking serious?
“Are you out of your fucking mind? You want to put that guy in the back of our car?”
“I just thought we might…”
“No! No! No! Absolutely, positively, one hundred percent, no fucking way in this or any other universe known to man or God! Do you understand? No!”
Oh! Oh, I get it! He’s laughing at me! He’s fucking laughing at me! He was just fucking with me! Oh, you are a dead man, Ryan Harper! You are a fucking dead man!
“You’re going to pay for this, Harper! As God is my witness, you’re going to pay for this!”
“That look on your face was priceless! I wish I’d taken a picture of it!”
“Get in the fucking car, sadist!”
“What about him?”
“Hey, you! What’s your name?”
“Joshua. They call me Josh. You can call me Josh. Or Joshua, whichever.”
“Josh, you have a better one. Get that shit looked at. I mean it. Go to the clinic.”
“I hate waiting there. They always make you wait. Sometimes it’s hours, you know.”
“I’ll tell you what: here’s my card. Put that in your pocket. You go to the clinic tomorrow and tell them I said to take you right away. If they’ve got a problem with that, tell them to call me. The number’s on there.”
“Hey, that’s really nice of you, Senior. I appreciate that. I really do.”
“No problem. You need it.”
“But I didn’t do you no favors. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Yeah! Don’t ever show me those…what the hell are they called?”
“You mean the abscesses?”
“Yeah! The abscesses! Don’t ever show me those again as long as I live! Deal?”
“It’s a deal. Thank you!”
“You’re welcome. God help you. You need it!”
Jesus Christ! That was worse than a goddamned slasher movie! And that shit was real! How do people live like that? How is that even possible?
That was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my life! I could handle it if the guy were dead. I mean, I’ve seen dead bodies that were decomposed into nothing but bones and jelly. I’ve seen dead bodies with rats eating away at them. But that motherfucker was alive! How the fuck was he alive with big, giant holes in his arms? How does he not bleed to death? And that smell! It looked like a quart of green pus was leaking out of those holes! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!
“Head on over to the Big Lot, Harper. After that guy, even Ricky’s a breath of fresh air.”
“I think we should’ve taken him in, Dani.”
“Silence, you! You’re a fucking sadist, you know that? I take back all of those nice things I said about you! You’re evil! Plain and simple!”
“No, I just thought…”
“Stop lying! You’re a terrible liar! You can’t even keep a straight face! You were trying to make me puke, weren’t you? You hoped the thought of him in the car with us would make me puke all over myself, didn’t you?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, you almost pulled it off! I still feel sick to my stomach!”
“Did you see the lice crawling on him?”
“Is that what those things were?”
“Well, some of them were lice. I think the rest of them were maggots and fleas.”
Oh, now I’m definitely going to be sick! Lice? Fleas? Pus? And he’s cleaning them out with an old syringe? That’s beyond sick!
“Enough! You are one horrible, evil man!”
“Do you want to go get something to eat?”
“Move your fucking hand! I want to punch you right in the balls!”
“I’ll crash the car. We’ll both be killed.”
“I’ll take that chance!”
“If we get injured, maybe that guy will give you mouth to mouth?”
He’s making jokes? He thinks I’m kidding! Is he crazy? He puts an image like that in my head and he expects to walk away with his balls intact? No fucking way! That’s it! Time to die, Officer Harper!
“I warned you!”
Got him! Direct hit! I know that had to hurt!
“Oh, shit! Fuck!”
“Hurts, doesn’t it? I told you I was going to punch you in the balls!”
“Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d do it!”
I’m quite sure I didn’t say or do anything that would have led him to believe that I wasn’t serious.
“Well, let that be a lesson to you: I’m a woman of my word.”
“Jesus, Dani! That fucking hurt!”
“Of course it hurt. I’m a girl, Harper. I’m an expert at punching guys in the balls.”
“So I noticed! I think you squashed them flat!”
That was actually a good punch. I think he’s going to be feeling that for a few hours. I hope I don’t need him to chase anybody until the pain wears off. He’ll be walking funny until then.
“Hey! Doesn’t punching me in the nuts qualify as sexual harassment?”
“Not at all.”
“I think it does.”
“Nonsense. Do you know how many guys would love for me to punch them in the nuts? You should consider yourself lucky.”
“What kind of guys have you been dating?”
None lately. But I’ve known plenty of guys who got off on that sort of thing. That’s probably why I wouldn’t go out with them, though. Then again, maybe that’s why I’m still single?
“Dating? What’s a date? I think I read about those, once. They sound like fun.”
“Dani! Check it out! That blue Ford, heading for the Big Lot!”
“What about it?”
“It’s got out-of-state plates. You don’t see a lot of those out here at night. Not in this neighborhood.”
Good call, Harper! Sharp eyes! Those are Arizona plates. He’s a long way from home.
“Is he going into the Big Lot?”
“It looks like it.”
“If he turns in there, light him up.”
Yeah, I know we don’t have any probable cause. But I really don’t give a shit. If he’s out here at this hour and heading for a known dope spot, well, that’s probable cause enough for me. And if it’s a big nothing, then we can always just let him go.
“Sixteen Central, request want and warrant, blue Ford Fusion, Arizona license number LJL1983.”
“Sixteen Central, Arizona license LJL1983. Stand by.”
Running an out of state license plate is always a crapshoot. Even if the thing is wanted, there might not be any information in our system. That happens sometimes. And they’ll have a hell of a time getting an auto status on it. We don’t always have fast access to out-of-state DMV information.
“Dani, he’s going into the Big Lot.”
I don’t want him in there if he’s up to no good. And who knows how long it’s going to take to get a response on that plate? We need to take this guy now!
“Light him up. Give him one quick blast of the siren.”
All right, let’s see if we’ve got a lost tourist, or something else entirely. Oh, shit! He floored it! He’s running! He’s dirty!
“I think he’s going for the alley!”
“Sixteen Central, we are in pursuit of a blue Ford Fusion, Arizona license LJL1983, heading for the southbound alley, west of the Big Lot! Requesting backup and an air unit! One male Hispanic in the vehicle!”
The alley’s blocked off by a bunch of steel pillars, but there’s enough space for a small car to fit through. But that’s not exactly a small car!
“Harper, can he make it through those pillars?”
“Not a chance!”
And there’s our answer! He just wrecked!
“Sixteen Central, the vehicle has TC’d at the entrance to the alley! In the Big Lot! 9th and Palomar!”
“He hit hard, Dani! Let’s get him before he gets out of the car!”
“Right with you, Harper! Go!”
I only see the driver, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone else in there! And it’s the one you don’t see that kills you!
“Harper! Take a position behind those cars! Watch the driver! I’ll clear the car from this side!”
“Got it! Hey, you! Driver! Put your hands on the windshield, now! Do it!”
I don’t see anyone else. Check the back seat, quick peek, clear! It’s just the driver!
“Harper! The car’s clear! It’s just the driver!”
“Driver! Put your hands where I can see them! Now!”
This guy’s not responding. He’s fidgeting around in there. He could be going for a gun, or who knows what! My best bet is to move right up alongside the passenger side, get in his blind spot, and cover him from there. Fuck! What is with this idiot?
“Driver! Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!”
I can see his hands, but he’s not following orders. This asshole’s going to get himself shot if he keeps acting like this!
“I said let me see your hands! Harper, I think he’s looking for something in there!”
Like maybe a gun? Whatever it is, I don’t want him to get a hold of it!
“I got him, Dani! Get the fuck out of that car! Move!”
Ouch! OK, that works! If the guy won’t exit the vehicle by himself, have Harper yank his ass right out through the door! Problem solved!
“He’s cuffed. Dani!”
“I’m going to shut off the engine. Search him good!”
“He’s clean. No weapons.”
So why the fuck was he running? What’s he doing down here? And where’s Ricky? I thought I saw him for a second when we pulled into the lot, but I don’t see him now. That’s a bad sign. OK, the engine’s off. He hit hard, but I don’t think there’s enough damage to set the car on fire. That’s a good thing. Whoa! What have we, here? I guess this guy was armed after all!
“Harper! We’ve got a gun under the front seat!”
“Hey, you! What are you doing driving around here with a gun? Answer me!”
So he’s got a gun, and he’s running from the police, and he’s at the Big Lot after midnight. That’s a hell of a combination. Well, since he’s definitely under arrest, and since we’re impounding his car, I guess it’s time to conduct a little inventory search. And the best place to start is the trunk.
“I don’t see anything else in the car. I’m going to check the trunk.”
“Roger that. Hey, you! Have you got anything in the trunk we should know about?”
“Yeah, I heard you the first time! It’s still bullshit!”
I’ll let Harper deal with the idiot. So let’s see what he’s got back here? I hope it’s not a body. Nope. No body. Thank heaven for small miracles. It’s a shame, actually. This was a nice car until he wrecked it. The trunk’s empty, so we check the spare tire. And we’ve got…no spare tire, but an interesting shoebox! And I’m guessing it doesn’t contain shoes! Nope! It’s full of dope! Damn! It’s really full of dope! I think it’s heroin. And it’s not packaged in little balloons. It’s in bricks. This is wholesale dope. Our friend here was making a delivery for Ricky. That explains why he ran. Damn! That is some serious dope!
“Harper, take a look at this.”
“Shit! Is that what I think it is?”
“Do you think it’s heroin?”
“Yeah, I do. A lot of it!”
“I think you’re right. This guy’s in big trouble.”
God, I love this job! I love this division! I love skid row! I definitely caught the brass ring by being transferred here! Look at this shit! You don’t find this much dope working patrol anywhere else!
“Harper, call for a tow truck. And make sure they hold the car for evidence. And cancel the air unit. We won’t be needing them.”
“Roger that, Dani. See, this is why I became a cop!”
“Me, too. It’s a blast sometimes.”
There’s more dope in that box than most patrol officers will see in twenty years. The amount of dope that’s in this division is mind-boggling. This one’s got me totally psyched! Oh, this is going to hurt Ricky big time! No way can he afford to lose this much dope! He’s going to go fucking ballistic!
Central Station. Reports and booking the suspect. A kilo of heroin! I’d never seen more than a handful of balloons before I got here. Now I’ve got a goddamned kilo in my hand! This place is beyond belief! I’m beginning to wonder how there’s any dope left for the rest of the addicts in the city? It really looks like it all comes straight here!
The Watch Commander’s going to want to know why we went in pursuit of this guy. Some supervisors can be real assholes about that. Unless someone commits a murder right in front of you, they don’t think you’ve got enough cause to go in pursuit. I’m no fan of pursuits, but I really hate that. I especially hate it when you get some sergeant or lieutenant who says “all you had was a traffic violation.” Uh, no, sir. We started with a traffic violation, and then the guy suddenly took off like a bat out of hell. It stands to reason that there was more than a traffic ticket at stake if the asshole bolts on you, right? Some supervisors just aren’t capable of comprehending that.
I think Sergeant Gellar’s sitting in for the Graveyard Watch Commander. I saw Lieutenant Edmonston in the captain’s office a few minutes ago, working the phones. He’s probably deciding whether to go on Tac Alert. Poor guy.
It’s not Sergeant Gellar. Oh, good! It’s Sergeant Hendrickson. I’ll bet he understands why it’s a good idea to chase people who run from the police.
“Gellar’s out on a call. What was that two-second pursuit about, Lynott?”
“That’s how long it took for the suspect to crash into the parking pillars at the Big Lot, sir.”
“What was he doing?”
“He was heading for the Big Lot with out of state plates on the car. He didn’t signal when he turned into the lot, so…”
“So you used that as a chickenshit excuse to light him up. Fair enough. Then what?”
“As soon as he got in the lot, he floored it. He tried to make it into the alley.”
“Which proves he’s not from around here. The only thing that’ll fit between those pillars is a Mini or a Smart Car and everyone knows it.”
“Pretty much, sir. So the driver TC’d and we had to pull him out of the car. He refused to get out at first, so Harper yanked him out.”
“Was anyone else in the car?”
See? This is how it should go: the sergeant’s all business. No bullshit. Just the facts, ma’am.
“No, sir. Just the driver.”
“Is he injured?”
“He doesn’t appear to be. He says he doesn’t speak English, but we don’t believe him. Everything on his phone is in English. He walks OK, so we don’t think he got banged up.”
“Do we know why he ran?”
“Yes, sir. We found a gun under the driver’s seat.”
He’s going to love this. Hell, this makes that load of crack we got look small!
“Yes, sir. This was in the trunk.”
“Son of a bitch!”
“Is that heroin?”
“The test came back positive for heroin, sir.”
“A shade over one kilogram.”
“That’s a fucking kilo of heroin? Jesus, I’ve never even seen one before!”
“Yes, sir. We think he was making a delivery to Ricky.”
“Was Ricky there?”
“I’m not sure. I thought I saw him right when we lit the guy up, but he wasn’t there after we got the guy in custody. I can’t be sure that I saw him.”
“Who else would be taking delivery of a kilo of heroin at the Big Lot?”
“Our thoughts exactly, sir. We think it’s his supply for his dealers. Ricky must have someone bring it to him, and then he divvies it up among his dealers. This would keep them going for a while.”
“This would keep them going for a long while! Even a crew as big as Ricky’s. This is going to put a big fucking dent in his business.”
I sincerely hope so. But to be honest, I realized that I don’t know how much this is to Ricky. I can’t believe it’s a drop in the bucket, but maybe it’s not as much as we think it is? I hope that’s not the case, but he’s a pretty big dealer. He might be even bigger than we thought.
“We’re waiting for Ruiz to come in and talk to this guy, sir. Harper’s running the plate and the VIN number.”
“Did you hold the vehicle for Narcotics Division?”
“Yes, sir. Not that anybody’s going to be driving it away.”
“Maybe not, but definitely fucked up.”
“And the car had out of state plates?”
“Yes, sir. Arizona plates.”
Which explains why we never heard back from the RTO on the vehicle’s registration information.
“Is it a rental?”
He’s good. That’s exactly what I thought at first. But now I don’t think that’s the case.
“There’s no rental car stickers on it. No rental car license plate frame. No contract in the glove box. We’ll know when the information comes in. Or should I say if it ever comes in? We never heard back from the RTO.”
“In this case, I’m not surprised. Arizona, Mexican border, heroin. I think I can connect the dots. Good work, Lynott. Again! You know what to do.”
“Write it up and don’t leave out a thing.”
“Burn a copy for Narcotics Division, and one for me. I think you guys should get a commendation for this.”
“We appreciate it, sir. It was Harper who spotted the car.”
“Make sure that goes in the report.”
“Do you want to take a picture of the dope, sir?”
“Are you kidding? A whole fucking kilo seized by patrol? You’re damned right I’m taking a picture of it! And I want the both of you in it, too. This is a hell of a seizure, especially for a couple of uniforms.”
“I’m starting to think that in this division, it’s par for the course.”
“We’ve definitely got a lot of dope around here. What about the gun?”
“It’s a 9 millimeter Beretta. Nice gun. Harper’s running it.”
“Keep me posted. And let me know when Ruiz gets here. I want to be there when he talks to this asshole.”
Of course, I don’t think this guy’s going to tell us very much. He knows he’s fucked big time. Anything he has to say, he’ll save for the D.A. to get a better deal. I don’t know if he’ll get one, but he’ll try. He’s got nothing to lose.
“We got a hit on the gun. It’s stolen; over a year ago. It comes back to a crime report in Tucson, Arizona.”
“That explains the plates. Is Ruiz here yet?”
“Yeah, he’s talking to the guy. Unfortunately, Ruiz is doing all of the talking.”
“Did he get a name?”
“If he did, it’s bullshit.”
“What about the car?”
“Still waiting for a response.”
I hate dealing with out of state plates. Sometimes you get the information fast, but sometimes it takes forever to get anything.
“We’re probably going to have to take this guy over to Records and have them run his prints. If he’s ever been arrested, he’ll turn up.”
“Won’t they do that anyway?”
I don’t want to just book this guy as John Doe and find out later who he is. If he’s one of Ricky’s suppliers, I want to know ASAP. So does Sergeant Hendrickson.”
“He must be happy with this one.”
“He’s thrilled. He wants us to pose for a picture with the dope.”
“Don’t forget the gun.”
“That, too. Did this guy have any money on him?”
“Then it’s safe to assume he wasn’t dealing. He’s a courier. He was making a delivery.”
“Do you think he was delivering to Ricky?”
If Ricky’s getting his dope from out of state, Detective Godfrey will want to know about it right away. I want to get as much information on this guy before we drop him in Narcotics’ lap. The more work we do up front, the faster they can turn it into something useful. And if Ricky’s bringing his dope in from out of state, then the Feds are going to want in. They take that crossing state lines shit very seriously.
Here comes Ruiz, and he doesn’t look happy. I guess the conversation was pretty one-sided.
“Did he tell you anything?”
“Yeah, a lot of bullshit. He says he doesn’t know anything about any dope or any gun. He says you guys planted it on him.”
“Yeah, right. Did he say why he ran?”
“He says he’s illegal, and he was afraid you were going to deport him.”
“That’s the best he could do?”
“He’s not what you’d call a quiz kid. But from the way he speaks Spanish, I think he’s been here for a long time. He might have even been born here. He doesn’t sound like a native Mexican.”
“Did he say he was from Mexico?”
“Yeah, but he doesn’t know jack shit about Mexico. I asked him who Benito Juarez was, and he doesn’t know.”
“I don’t know who Benito Juarez is.”
“That’s because you’re a white girl from Boston, not a Mexican.”
“Whatever. Asking a Mexican ‘Who is Benito Juarez?’ is like asking an American ‘Who is George Washington?’ If he doesn’t know, then he ain’t no Mexican. Count on it.”
That’s good to know. I’ll have to remember that one. It might come in handy someday. Ruiz should get a commendation for coming up with that test. They sure as hell didn’t teach it to us in the academy.
“All right, let’s just take him over to Records and run his prints. If he’s in the system, he’ll turn up.”
“Oh, he’s in the system, all right. Trust me, this asshole’s been arrested before. He knows the drill too well.”
“I believe you. Would you tell Sergeant Hendrickson what you just told us? We’re going to take this guy over to Records.”
“Will do. You want us to meet you over there? This guy might cause you some trouble. He’s starting to get pissed.”
“That’s a good idea. We’d appreciate it.”
“You got it. We’ll see you over there.”
This should be interesting. If he’s been arrested, then they’ll be able to tell us in a matter of minutes. I really want to know who this guy is. And I want to see his record. That will have information on any of his known associates, and that could lead us to something really big. We won’t be the ones following up on it, but Narcotics division will. Who knows? It might be enough to put Ricky away for good.
Police Headquarters. The Records Division. I’m glad Ruiz and Rosen are going to meet us here. You don’t usually have problems with prisoners over at Records, but the people who work there are civilians. If something goes wrong, you can’t very well expect them to jump in and fight. Some of them do, but it’s not their job. It’s our job to protect them. And Ruiz definitely had the feeling that this guy might cause a problem. Better four against one than two against one.
“Harper, have you ever seen them do this?”
“What? Run somebody’s prints?”
“The system they use is pretty amazing. If you’ve never seen it, you should.”
“What about this guy?”
“He’s chained to the bench. Ruiz and Rosen should be here any minute now. I’ll wait with him until they get here. If he goes off, I’ll let out a yell.”
“You make damned sure you do. You got that?”
“You know I will.”
“OK. What’s first?”
“First, we’ve got to print this guy. If he gives us any problems, we cut off his fucking hand and print him that way.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
I said that because I’m guessing this guy speaks perfect English. I want him to know that if he fucks with us, he’s going to get the beating of his life. And don’t think I’d hesitate to do it. Like I said, the people here are civilians. I’m not going to let this asshole put them in any danger.
“Here comes our backup. Over here, guys.”
“How’s the make-believe Mexican behaving?”
“So far, so good. Hey, Ruiz? Just so we understand each other, tell this guy that if he gives us so much as half a hard time, we’re going to stomp his ass.”
“No problem. Escúchame, puto!”
At least that way, we’ll know he gets the message. I’m hoping that’s enough. It looks like Ruiz is making it abundantly clear to him, all right. And our arrestee doesn’t like it one bit!
“Does he understand?”
“Let’s go. Put your hand right here on the fingerprint scanner.”
So far, so good. He probably doesn’t know how fast this process works. I just hope he’s in the system. I really want to find out who the hell he is. And for that matter, he may be wanted somewhere. That would be a nice extra to tack onto his charge sheet. You don’t get to arrest a lot of out-of-state miscreants working patrol. That’s usually detective-level stuff. This Live Scan machine is a hell of a lot faster than the old ink and paper way of doing it. It also keeps you from getting that fingerprint ink all over your hands. That shit can be a bitch to clean off of your fingers. Ain’t technology grand?
“We got it. He’s good to go, Dani.”
“Harper, you go in there and watch the process. We’ll stay out here with him.”
“Are you sure you’ll be OK?”
“There’s three of us, and he’ll be chained to the bench. Yeah, we’re good.”
“OK. Just remember: yell if you need me.”
“Will do. Go watch the miracle of modern science.”
I never met anyone with a brain that wasn’t highly impressed by the fingerprint identification process. It’s a hell of a lot more efficient that the old way of looking at a million fingerprint cards with a magnifying glass.
Ruiz seems pretty impressed with Harper. Good. Ruiz is a great cop. You want great cops to be impressed with you, and Harper’s just starting out on his career.
“Your boot really looks out for you, Dani.”
“I prefer to think of him as my partner. And yes, he does. We look out for each other. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Doesn’t Rosen look out for you?”
“Sure. But it’s different with a boot.”
“No, it isn’t. At least, it shouldn’t be.”
“I noticed you don’t treat him like a boot. Why is that?”
“What for? Harper’s three weeks away from being off probation. Why would I treat him like he’s fresh out of the academy?”
“Most training officers do, right up to the end.”
“I know. It doesn’t make any sense. You treat someone like a boot; you’re their boss. Would you risk your life for your boss?”
“Maybe if she looked like you.”
“You risk your life for your partner. The minute your partner thinks he’s anything less than that, you’re screwed. You’ll never know if you can count on him. Why so many training officers fail to realize that is beyond me.”
“That’s not the point. They’ve got to earn it. Just like we did.”
“Think about the worst training officer you ever had. Think about all the times he treated you like a piece of worthless shit. Then ask yourself: hadn’t you earned it by then?”
“I see your point. You’re not like most training officers, that’s for sure.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. How come you’re not a training officer?”
“I flunked the exam.”
“Did you study?”
“Might I suggest that next time, you study for it?”
“I don’t think it’s for me. I’m not into training people. I don’t need the headaches.”
I respect him for saying that. At least he knows that he doesn’t want to do it. So many people don’t want to train anyone and yet they become training officers anyway. They’re not doing anyone any favors that way. Hey, here comes Harper. Did they get something that quick? I’ve never seen it work that fast.
“Hey, Dani! You were right. That shit is amazing!”
“Damn! That was fast! Did they get anything?”
“Oh, yeah! Take a look.”
Well, look at that! Ruiz was right about this guy.
“Hello, Jorge! What? Did you forget your real name? It’s Jorge Leon, according to this. Oh, and you can cut the ‘I don’t speak English’ bullshit. It says here you were born in Phoenix. You speak English as well as we do.”
“Dani, there’s more. He’s got a warrant, but I’ve never seen one like this before.”
“Let me see. Well, look at that! Jorge, you’ve got a federal warrant in Arizona! The DEA is looking for you!”
Now that definitely struck a nerve! He knows he’s caught now. And if he’s got a federal warrant, he’s probably looking at a few decades in the federal lockup. A federal drug charge? You go away for a long time for that shit. No wonder he looks pissed.
“How do we handle this, Dani? I’ve never dealt with a federal warrant before.”
“We just tack it on to his charge sheet, like any other warrant. We burn a copy for the Fugitive unit. They’ll decide if he serves his time here on the open charges, or goes back to Arizona to serve his federal time, first.”
“What’s his bail?”
“For an out-of-state federal warrant? He doesn’t have any bail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass ‘Go,’ do not collect two hundred dollars.”
“This just keeps getting better and better.”
“Yeah, sometimes the job is like that. Gentlemen, thank you for your assistance with Jorge, here. Feel free to include him in your recap.”
“Anytime, Dani. Jorge, you have fun in federal prison, OK? Don’t drop the soap.”
“He doesn’t seem to be in a talkative mood. We’ve got it from here.”
Our new friend here seems very depressed. I’m not surprised. He’s a courier who lost a kilo of dope. He’s probably got worse people to answer to than Ricky – assuming that’s even possible.
“Harper, unhook him from the bench. We’ll take him downstairs and book him here.”
“You heard her. On your feet.”
With any luck, we’ll be able to finish this up with no more than an hour’s worth of overtime. We’ve still got to take the evidence back to the station and book it there, but that’s the easy part. Poor Jorge. So that’s what a man looks like when he realizes that life as he knows it has come to a screeching end. It’s pretty sad. But hey, he deserves it.
Central Station. End of watch. Ha! I love it when I’m right! Exactly one hour of overtime! No getting home when the sun’s already up. Sometimes, things just work out the way you want them to. We just need to give the report to Sergeant Hendrickson.
“We’re done, Sarge. Here’s your copy of the report.”
“Good work, both of you. I mean it. That asshole was a good catch. Did you see his out-of-state rap sheet?”
“Not the details.”
Actually, I was wondering about that. We just took what little we could get at the time. Sometimes, those out-of-state records take a while to come through. And given all the grief he gave us during the booking, I’ll bet he’s done some serious shit in his day. He was really an asshole. For a minute there, I thought the jailers were going to beat the crap out of him. I guess that’s one lesson he never learned: don’t fuck with the jailers. Not only are they not afraid to beat your ass when necessary, they’re also the people who can fuck with you in all sorts of ways. After all, they control your food, water, clothing, cell assignment, and access to a shower. I know for a fact that gangbangers who caused them a lot of grief sometimes found themselves in the wrong cell – meaning they ended up in a section full of rival gangbangers. They never left them in long enough to get killed, but I saw more than a few of them show up in court looking like they’d been run over by a steamroller. Some people just have to learn the hard way.
“I got his rap sheet after you guys left to book the evidence. You’re guy is one serious asshole. He’s a dealer, an armed robber, he’s got convictions for ADW and a few other violent crimes, and his custody record says he’s connected to the Zetas in Mexico. He’s no street-level dealer, that’s for sure.”
“He’s got to be Ricky’s supplier. Or at least, one of his suppliers.”
“Not anymore, Lynott. With what he’s looking at, I think he’s permanently retired. Did you burn a copy for the Fugitive squad?”
“Sure did. And we had a copy sent to the D.E.A. They were the ones listed on the federal warrant info.”
“I don’t think we’ll be seeing him again. Just write it up good and drop a copy in my box.”
“Already done, Sarge.”
“Good. Anything else?”
“I’ve got nothing, sir.”
“What about you, Harper?”
“One question, sir: Is it sexual harassment if your female partner punches you in the balls really hard?”
Damn, I forgot I did that to him! Oh, well. He deserved it.
“That depends. Are you a boot and the female partner is your training officer?”
“Hypothetically? Yes, sir.”
“Then it’s just part of your training.”
“You’ll get used to it. How hard did she hit you?”
“Very hard, sir. It was extremely painful.”
“You’re a Marine, Harper. Do you remember what they taught you about pain?”
“What did they teach you? Pain is good, so extreme pain is…?”
“Extremely good, sir.”
“Exactly. Suck it up. Nothing else? Good. You guys are end of watch. Clean out your car and don’t even think of handing me an overtime slip for one minute more than an hour. I’m watching that clock.”
Again with the overtime fetish? Sometimes I think the whole city could be on fire, and the only thing they’d worry about is how much overtime it took to get things under control.
“Actually, I think your clock is slow, Sarge. We’re definitely more than an hour overtime.”
“Are you fucking with me, Lynott?”
“Would you be upset if I were?”
“I’d be very upset.”
“Then I’m not fucking with you, sir. We’re out of here.”
I’m actually glad that we’re done for the night. There’s no way we could top that arrest. Better to pack it in after a huge win. It allows you to savor the moment. God, it’s been such a long time. I spent a year wondering if I’d ever feel this way again. It’s nice to be back.