Nicknamed the Nickel by locals because its center is Fifth Street, the slum is five square blocks of the worst Downtown Los Angeles has to offer: condemned buildings, overfull shopping carts, and upwards of six-thousand disenfranchised men and women living in sidewalk tents. You can say it's tragic. You can call it a crime. Some even think it survival of the fittest. But it's easy to slap a label on it from a safe distance. It's different on the asphalt. The grime on those streets never washes off. It doesn't matter how much bleach you pour into a bucket.
Living in Skid Row, it was hard not to consider the stories that came my way. I'd been here over a week, and my eyes were open to the plight of the locals. Some of the nicer ones were victims of circumstance. Others were sick in the head. Many were criminals and deadbeats who'd brought this on themselves one way or another. And, without a doubt, every single one of them was addicted to something: Drugs. Alcohol. Meds. Adrenalin. Whether theses vices were contributing factors to their decline or a habit picked up to cope, it no longer mattered. These marginals had been forgotten in life.
And in the beginning, they were forgotten in death as well.
To everyone else here, my name was Ricky Kicks. Just another down-on-his-luck redneck who finally couldn't scrounge up enough scratch for a month's rent. But my real name is Rick Danvers. I'm an undercover detective with Robbery Homicide.
I know—that's hard to believe.
What did the LAPD care about the destitute and the lost? The truth was, they didn't. Not at first. But they care about headlines, and you can only pile bodies so high before people notice.