Read The Delta Star Online

Authors: Joseph Wambaugh

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural

The Delta Star (10 page)

BOOK: The Delta Star
11.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Maybe I oughtta move to Russia,” Rumpled Ronald cried. “Maybe there ain’t no U. S. A. no more!”

“Lighten up, Ronald,” Dilford whined. “Somebody call the animal shelter and shoot a tranquilizer dart in his ass!”

“Wait’ll you’re twenty-five hours and fifty…” Then the rumpled cop looked at his watch and said, “No. Forty minutes from a pension. Then you’ll see!”

Dolly turned to Jane Wayne, who was trying to persuade The Bad Czech to dance, and said, “Didn’t you give Ronald his lithium today?”

“Did I have a pulse when I came in here?” Cecil Higgins said in deadly earnest to Mario Villalobos, who of course didn’t know about the hanging wino and the paws in the petunias. All he knew was that it must’ve been an off day. Everyone was cranky.

Suddenly the ordinary yelling and griping was interrupted by a god-awful howling outside in the street. It sounded like

“Oh no!” Leery cried. “It’s Ludwig!”

When the door came crashing open to admit Ludwig, Hans and two groupies from Chinatown, you couldn’t be sure if man was leading dog or dog was leading man. One end of the leash was attached to Ludwig’s off-duty choker chain and the other to
Hans’ hand-tooled western belt with the big silver buckle studded with red glass.

“I told you to keep that goddamn animal outa here!” Leery screamed, hopping around behind the bar and furiously banging an empty beer mug on the keg, breaking it off at the handle and showering everyone with glass, which really made them mad.

“Goddamn you, Leery!” Dilford screamed.

“You got glass in my clam chowder! I want new clam chowder!” The Bad Czech yelled.

“How’d you like to find out if the carotid artery of seventy-year-old misers opens like normal people!” Dolly cried, drunk and belligerent.

Dolly was beginning to impress the hell out of Dilford. “Hey, Dolly,” he said. “Do you dickless Tracys beat the shit out of civilian guys when they don’t satisfy you? Tell me dirty stories. I’m starting to like broads in uniform.”

“I ain’t serving you and I ain’t serving that dog!” Leery yelled, acting as though he was going to pick up the telephone. “You better get him outa here, Hans!”

“Put that fuckin phone down or I’ll shoot it off the wall!” The Bad Czech bellowed, scaring the crap out of everyone but Ludwig. “I don’t like Hans and his fuckin mutt any more than you do, but there ain’t nobody gonna call the cops in my drinkin spot!”

“But, Czech, I can’t serve that dog,” Leery whined, while Ludwig, who had already hit two saloons in Chinatown, began howling, rising up with his front feet on the bar, glaring at Leery and going

“I’ll buy the beer for the fuckin dog!” The Bad Czech screamed dementedly, holding his hands over his ears. “Jist stop that fuckin howlin!”

“Settle, Czech. Settle, baby,” Jane Wayne said soothingly, tugging The Bad Czech’s furry eyebrows and stroking his temples. “Mellow, mellow. That’s better.” Then she said, “Leery, the noise in here’d make the Falklands war sound like baby farts. I suggest you give that creature a glass of beer.”

After Hans and Ludwig were reluctantly served, the entire establishment quieted down. Ludwig was the only one to know when he’d had enough, and was getting sleepy and eyeing the pool table next to the three-coffin dance floor where Jane Wayne and The Bad Czech rubbed their Jordache jeans together and bit on each other’s ears. Hans and the groupies were getting very tense by telling outlandish and fanciful accounts of orgies they’d allegedly attended. Dilford and Dolly were so bombed they were not only talking to each other but Dolly had her arm around Dilford’s shoulder, saying, “I don’t want to have nightmares about what we saw today. I don’t want to wake up to ugliness.”

Which caused the eavesdropping Cecil Higgins to say, “You should see my wife. I always wake up to ugliness.”

“I killed another parakeet,” Rumpled Ronald suddenly announced weepily.

“Nobody asked ya, Ronald,” Dilford said. “I had enough dead things for one day.”

Cecil Higgins said, “My wife’s uglier than Yassir Arafat, Tom Hayden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”

Rumpled Ronald had spoken only in non-sequiturs for the past hour, and made announcements. “I killed four other parakeets,” he said. “If she knew it was me killing the parakeets she’d dump me like she did her first husband. She owns the house and car. And then if I didn’t get my pension I’d end up living at the Midnight Mission on skid row. And selling my blood.”

Suddenly Rumpled Ronald’s voice broke, causing Mario Villalobos to say, “That is freaking it! Crying jags. Time to go home.”

In that Leery was the only coherent one in the saloon, he got curious and said, “Why do you kill parakeets, Ronald?”

“They’re filthy. They shit everywhere,” Rumpled Ronald said weepily. “My old lady lets them outa their cage and they fly all over the house. How would you like parakeet shit in your Cream of Wheat?”

“I never even cook Cream of Wheat, living alone like I do,” Dilford said. Now he was getting weepy and feeling sorry for himself. “You should see my bacon, Dolly. It’s all green with hair on it. I hate living alone. Nobody cares for me!”

“How do you kill the parakeets?” Leery wanted to know.

“It’s for great truths like these that you stay in business and don’t retire to Sun City,” Mario Villalobos noted. “It’s not the money.”

“I spray them in the snoot with a little spray starch,” Rumpled Ronald said. “It’s a merciful death and undetectable. They just do a little header right off the perch.”

“I think you’re disgusting,” Dolly said, pugnaciously. “Somebody oughtta squeeze your carotid artery.”

“Somebody oughtta squeeze my prick till I scream!” Hans cried to the groupies, making Dolly call him a pervert.

“I love to see tiny girls get hostile,” Dilford said. “Hey, Leery, I wanna buy Dolly a drink and break down her resistance.”

“This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Leery said happily, while he poured the booze, grabbed Dilford’s dough and leered like a gargoyle.

“There’s a place in Nevada this wholesome,” Mario Villalobos said. “It’s called The Mustang Ranch.”

“I like that!” Hans suddenly shrieked in his irritating singsong voice while one of his groupies sucked on his neck. “She said you should never run over a Mexican on a bike cause it might be yours
” Then Hans remembered the counterfeit Mexican and said, “No offense, Mario.”

Just then the door opened and a lithe slender figure with shoulder-length hair floated through the gloom and smoke and sat at the bar, silently signaling for whiskey. They all quieted down a bit. They were vaguely troubled by him and didn’t know why. It was The Gooned-out Vice Cop.

The others resumed their conversation when The Gooned-out Vice Cop swallowed the double shot of bar whiskey. He stared at his mirror image in Leery’s spider web of a pub mirror. The Gooned-out Vice Cop smiled ever so slightly at his bifurcated face, green from neon light. The Gooned-out Vice Cop signaled for another, drank it down, left his money on the bar and stood up.

In the time he had been coming to Leery’s he had never spoken to anyone, and Dilford impulsively decided to make him speak. Dilford said, “Better be careful. Leery’s bar whiskey’ll make you go blind.”

The Gooned-out Vice Cop just smiled serenely with eyes like bullet holes and said, “That’s all right. I’ve seen enough. Haven’t you?”

And then he floated through the gloom and smoke out onto smog-shrouded Sunset Boulevard.

It was a fairly ordinary night at The House of Misery, all things considered. The only thing unusual happened when The Bad Czech tried to pay the evening’s tab with his credit card.

“You know I don’t take credit cards no more,” Leery said. “Too much hassle. Cash on the barrelhead.”

“Long as I been comin here, you ain’t gonna honor my card?” The Bad Czech glared, and with a melodramatic flourish slammed his hand down on the bar, nearly flattening the embossed name on the plastic card.

As old as he was, Leery still had the eyes of a vulture. He looked down at the card and said, “Well, I sure as hell ain’t gonna honor that card. Not unless your name’s Lester Beemer.”

“What’re you talkin about?” The Bad Czech said, picking up the credit card and trying to read it. But he was seeing two credit cards, two Leerys, two Jane Waynes.

Then two Mario Villaloboses walked up to him and said, “What’s the name on that card?”

“Lester Beemer,” Leery said. “Better call bunco-forgery. The Czech’s trying to hang bad paper.”

“Goddamn! Where’d I get this card?” The Bad Czech demanded of Leery.

“How the hell do I know?” Leery grumbled. “I just want my money. You owe me thirty-three bucks.”

“Hon, where’d I get this card?” The Bad Czech demanded of both Jane Waynes propping him up.

“I dunno, Czech,” she answered, “but I gotta hire a wheelbarrow and get you home.”

“Where’d I get this credit card, Cecil?” The Bad Czech demanded of his partner Cecil Higgins, who was snoring louder than Ludwig, with whom he shared the pool table.

“Can I have that credit card until tomorrow, Czech?” Mario Villalobos asked the monster cop. “When we’re both sober enough to think?”

“This is a freakin mystery!” The Bad Czech cried, giving the card to the detective. “I hate mysteries!”






Chapter S


It was a day to remember, all right. First, because all of the losers who had been at The House of Misery the night before, thereby evincing at least an unconscious death wish, had the world-class hangover usually reserved for The Bad Czech. Secondly, because a marathon foot pursuit, destined to go down in police folklore, took place. And finally, because a good cop died.

Everyone was looking a bit demented that morning. The Bad Czech was completely bonkers because he couldn’t for the life of him figure out where his credit card was and how he had one belonging to a Lester Beemer.

“I dunno, Mario!” he groaned to the detective, who questioned him immediately after roll call.

“When was the last time you saw your own credit card, Czech?” Mario Villalobos coaxed. “Try to think.”

“Try to think? Try to think?” The Bad Czech moaned. “Do you know what my head feels like?”

“About like mine,” Mario Villalobos said.

“Well how the hell can I think?” The Bad Czech was feeling extra sorry for himself and was extra cranky, so there was no point continuing.

“If it occurs to you later, gimme a call,” Mario Villalobos said.

“What’s so important about the credit card anyways?” Cecil Higgins asked.

“Probably nothing,” Mario Villalobos said. “It’s just that the name Lester came up in a homicide I’m handling.”

“Ordinary name,” Cecil Higgins said. “I got a cousin name a Lester. Gud-damn! What’s Leery put in that rotgut he serves, Agent Orange? I feel like a fruit fly that got maced. I gotta go out and get some fresh smog in my lungs.”

“Okay,” Mario Villalobos said. “Call me if you remember, Czech.”

Before being permitted to get some fresh smog in their lungs, The Bad Czech and Cecil Higgins were grabbed by the weary day-watch lieutenant, who, having lost Pipeline Jones on the hand grenade caper, was down to one sergeant. The lieutenant was not a snitch like Pipeline Jones, and The Bad Czech didn’t dislike him as much as he generally disliked supervisors, but the lieutenant hadn’t been known to do any work of any kind for at least fifteen years. Answering a telephone or signing a report fatigued him so, he’d have to recuperate with a two-hour lunch break. The troops referred to him as Too-Tired Loomis.

“Cecil, you and The Czech come in here, will you?” he said as the beat cops were limping toward the back door with thumping heads.

“What’s up, Lieutenant,” Cecil Higgins mumbled.

“I need someone to help out on the desk for a bit,” Too-Tired Loomis sighed. “I gotta do everything around here. I’m short one sergeant. I’ve got the regular desk people doing my roster. I don’t know what everyone expects of…”

“Okay, Lieutenant,” Cecil Higgins sighed. “C’mon, Czech, let’s work the desk for a while and let the lieutenant rest. He’s exhausted from all the tension.”

Five minutes later, while working the front desk at Rampart Station, The Bad Czech got a call from the Laser Lady.

“Oh God!” The Bad Czech said, holding his hand over the mouthpiece. “Cecil, it’s the Laser Lady. Why don’t you talk to her?”

“I can’t take it when she’s feelin grumpy. Is she in her God-bless-you mood today? Or her fuck-your-mother mood?”

“I dunno,” The Bad Czech sighed, resigning himself to whichever mood she was in. Then into the phone, “Okay, it’s me again. Gimme the grid coordinates.”

The Laser Lady said, “The grid coordinates are thirty-six latitude and forty-five longitude. You must hurry, Officer. They’re shooting lasers right into my head!”

“Okay, okay,” The Bad Czech said, holding his own head in his hand, elbow on the desk, furry eyebrows protruding through fingers as thick as shotgun barrels.

“Do you have the shield up to forty-five milligrams?” the Laser Lady asked frantically.

“Yeah, yeah,” The Bad Czech muttered.

“Well then, raise it to sixty-five milligrams, you stupid fucking cocksucking donkey!” the Laser Lady screamed.

“Ow!” The Bad Czech whined. “Cecil, she’s yellin in my ear! I’m gettin a migraine! You talk to her!”

“Gud-damnit, Czech, my head’s hurtin too. Jist raise the fuckin shield where she wants it. I can’t do everything.”

“Okay, okay,” The Bad Czech said to the Laser Lady. “We usually gotta call Jet Propulsion Laboratory to raise it to sixty-five milligrams, but I’m doin it now. There, you feel better?”

“Oh, that’s wonderful, Officer!” the Laser Lady cried. “All the lasers are being deflected now. Thank you very much.”

“Yeah, yeah,” The Bad Czech said grumpily. “Kin I hang up now?”

“You’ve been very kind, Officer,” the Laser Lady said. “God bless you.”

After The Bad Czech hung up he said, “Her headache’s all better and mine’s worse. I feel like they’re shootin lasers in my fuckin head.”

Just then Too-Tired Loomis trudged exhaustedly to the desk bringing with him the smallest male officer in Rampart Division. Sunney Kee was half Chinese, half Thai. He was twenty-two years old, had been in America only four years, yet could speak, read and write English with such excellence that he was at the top of his police academy graduating class. And though he was hardly taller than Dolly, he had come close to setting a new police academy record for the dreaded obstacle course which the recruits had to conquer. Of course he had a pronounced accent and was quite hard to understand when speaking over the radio or on the telephone.

It was really bad when he was teamed up with Carlos Delgado, a young cop from Ecuador, who when trying to broadcast license number VVA 123, actually said, “

It drove the communications operators bonkers but in the era of Equal Employment Opportunities, they all had their little crosses to bear.

“Sunney can help you out,” Too-Tired Loomis said. “His partner had to go to court.”

“Help out?” The Bad Czech said. “Why can’t he jist take over and let us get out to our beat?” He was dying to get to Leo’s Love Palace and drink an Alka-Seltzer and some raw egg in tomato juice.

“Sunney has trouble making himself understood on the telephone,” Too-Tired Loomis said. “I can’t be translating for him all day. Do you know how much work I have to do because Sergeant Jones went and got himself scared half to death by a hand grenade?”

“Aw, Sunney kin talk okay, Lieutenant,” Cecil Higgins moaned.

“I don’t know,” Too-Tired Loomis said, scratching his gray head, looking doubtfully at the ever-affable Sunney Kee, who hadn’t stopped smiling since he got this job which paid a good middle-class wage and allowed him to support his parents and six sisters.

The Bad Czech said, “What if I show ya he can say somethin real hard?”

“I don’t know,” Too-Tired Loomis said. “How hard?”

“I got it,” The Bad Czech said. “How about if I kin teach Sunney to say Magilla Gorilla?”

“Okay,” Too-Tired Loomis said wearily. “Make him say an understandable Magilla Gorilla and I’ll be satisfied he can work the desk.”

“There ain’t nothin to it, Sunney,” The Bad Czech said. “Why, when my old man came to this country from Czechoslovakia, he probably talked funnier’n you.”

Sunney Kee just nodded and smiled agreeably.

Thirty minutes later Sunney Kee was not smiling. The Bad Czech, sweating 80-proof bourbon, with his head banging like the shotguns on the police range, was staring dementedly at the little rookie, saying, “No, no, no! Goddamnit! I told you a hunnerd times now! Go-
-la. Go-
-la. It’s easy. Say it.”

Sunney Kee, who was also starting to sweat right through his blue uniform, looked fearfully up at the crazed gray eyes of the monster cop and said, “Go-
-la. Go-

“No! No! No!” The Bad Czech screamed, causing Cecil Higgins to say, “Czech, take Sunney in the coffee room. Git some orange juice. You’re jist makin your head worse and my head worse and you’re scarin the eggrolls outa poor Sunney.”

“Say gorilla,” The Bad Czech said, his voice flat and deadly. “I got a world-class hangover. I got a carnival in my colon. I gotta get out to my beat. Say gorilla, Sunney. Or I’ll kill ya!”

“Go-lee-la,” Sunney Kee said, looking up in terror into the blood-crimson demented eyes of The Bad Czech.

BOOK: The Delta Star
11.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Christmas Cake by Lynne Hinton
Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer
Snow Apples by Mary Razzell
Copenhagen Noir by Bo Tao Michaelis
Steeplechase by Krissy Kneen
Betrayal by Gillian Shields
Conspiracy by Kate Gordon
Tantric Coconuts by Greg Kincaid