Authors: Joseph Wambaugh
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural
Meanwhile, there was trouble on The Bad Czech’s beat. A woman with wooden teeth was being whacked around like a tetherball.
Her true name was unknown, but all the people around MacArthur Park called her Wooden Teeth Wilma. She was a harmless ragwoman who wore Hedda Hopper hats and miniskirts and boots that showed off her bony, varicosed, sixty-five-year-old legs, which she thought were beautiful. She was not as unkempt and dirty as most ragwomen, so it was thought that she might have a little income and actually live somewhere. Some policeman years earlier had started a rumor that she had been married to a cop, and when he was shot and killed by a bandit she haunted the area he used to patrol. It was probably without substance, but even cops need a little soap opera in their lives, so they chose to believe it and she was given handouts from time to time by The Bad Czech and Ce
As to the wooden teeth, it was a total mystery. She would only smile slyly when asked why she had dentures made of wood, and where she got them. She didn’t talk much, since even ragwomen in MacArthur Park thought it imprudent to tell all. The only answer she gave was that she had heard George Washington also had wooden teeth and look how people loved him.
But Earl Rimms didn’t love George Washington or Wooden Teeth Wilma. Earl Rimms didn’t love anybody. He had spent all of his forty-five years learning that love is expensive. Love can cost, and hate can pay.
Earl Rimms was not very discriminating when it came to victims, as long as they were defenseless. And he believed in quantity, not quality, so he’d steal the purse of just about anyone over the age of sixty who might break a hip or a shoulder when he knocked her to the ground.
The heat was on in his Watts neighborhood and old black women were starting to fight back. Earl Rimms wasn’t getting any younger himself, so he’d decided to move to central Los Angeles last year. He had been arrested here twice by Cecil Higgins and The Bad Czech, who were well aware of his record of senseless brutality to robbery victims. The beat cops had come to hate him as much as he hated everyone.
When Wooden Teeth Wilma made the near-fatal mistake of strolling past Earl Rimms that Tuesday morning, he couldn’t have known that the loony old lady carried only food for the ducks and dog food for herself in her oversized plastic purse. Earl Rimms was feeling particularly bummed because his
threatened to call the cops when he took half of her welfare money and knocked her down the steps for resisting. He was thinking of what he was going to do to that ungrateful bitch when he finished with his day’s work.
Wooden Teeth Wilma was wondering where The Bad Czech and Cecil Higgins were this morning. Maybe it was their day off, she thought, but there were no other beat cops around Alvarado. Traffic was medium light on this overcast, rather balmy Tuesday morning. The ducks always seemed more cheery when the weather was balmy.
She said, “Good morning!” to Earl Rimms.
He punched her so hard in the stomach that her wooden dentures shot from her mouth clattering across the pavement. He grabbed the red plastic purse at the same moment and jerked the frail woman, who whipped around him like a tetherball. She wanted to let go but was unable.
In order to keep someone from stealing her red plastic purse full of food for the ducks, she had wrapped the purse strap around her wrist. Earl Rimms was a powerful man and he whipped her in an arc until she slammed into a park bench cracking six ribs. On another pass she crashed into a palm tree, breaking her hip and the strap of the purse.
A Costa Rican newspaper vendor who was working on the corner saw the incident and started yelling. Earl Rimms ran like hell through the park and disappeared in the foot traffic on Alvarado with the duck food and Alpo hors d’oeuvres. Wooden Teeth Wilma ended up in the hospital and would unquestionably be on a walker for the rest of her life. When The Bad Czech heard about this later in the day from the Costa Rican newspaper vendor, he got mad enough to commit murder. And he did just that.
Mario Villalobos had no luck at all on the telephone to Caltech. No one at the division of chemistry knew a “Lester,” nor why a deceased person named Missy Moonbeam a. K. A. Thelma Bernbaum might have the number in her purse.
The coincidence of the name Lester on The Bad Czech’s mysterious credit card seemed to be just that, a coincidence. Mario Villalobos decided to send Chip Muirfield and Melody Waters over to Western Avenue in east Hollywood just to see if by chance they could spot a tall, black-haired guy in a dark pinstripe suit who might fit the hotel clerk’s description of the man he saw leaving the hotel when Missy Moonbeam did her header.
“Take a pass or two down the avenue,” Mario Villalobos told the shoulder holster kids. “The hotel clerk said he saw the guy talking to some street whores near the little newsstand north of Santa Monica. If you see a middle-aged guy in pinstripes, have a talk with him. If you feel hinky about him or if his name’s Lester, bring him in.”
“Okay if we stop for brunch first, Mario?” Chip Muirfield asked. “I’m feeling awful hungry and …”
“By all means stop for brunch,” Mario Villalobos said, taking two more aspirin, which weren’t helping the headache but were giving him a stomachache.
He started to feel a bit better just for getting rid of Chip and Melody. Suddenly The Bad Czech came charging in with the smallest Asian cop Mario Villalobos had ever seen. Both The Bad Czech and the little policeman had grins as wide as a nightstick.
“Hey, Mario, this here’s Sunney Kee,” The Bad Czech said. “He’s a new rookie outa the last class. Sunney, this is Sergeant Villalobos.”
After they shook hands, The Bad Czech grinned down at Sunney Kee like a proud dad and said, “Magilla?”
“Gorilla!” Sunney Kee answered, beaming.
“How ya like that, Mario?” The Bad Czech said. “He’s bright as a button!” Then to Sunney Kee he said, “Gorilla?”
“Magilla!” Sunney Kee answered, bright as a button.
“I’m sure there’s some significance here that I’m missing,” Mario Villalobos said.
“Lesterrr?” The Bad Czech said to Sunney Kee.
“Lesterrr!” Sunney Kee answered.
“See, Mario!” The Bad Czech said proudly. “Right as rain!”
“That’s truly made my day,” Mario Villalobos said, “but I’m a little bewildered.”
“I remembered about the credit card,” The Bad Czech said. “I mean, workin here with a goo … workin with Sunney here, I remembered the Korean restaurant yesterday. I got this stubborn chopstick in my shoe and when I couldn’t get it out I ended up with the wrong credit card.”
“Chopstick in your shoe,” Mario Villalobos said. He’d heard for some time that The Bad Czech was totally around the bend.
“Magilla?” The Bad Czech yelled suddenly, scaring the crap out of Mario Villalobos.
“Gorilla!” Sunney Kee answered, right as rain.
Then Sunney Kee and The Bad Czech beamed at each other, with smiles two nightsticks wide.
Dilford and Dolly, cold sober and hungover, had gone back to their old ways. Dilford had some memory of their semi-cordial night in The House of Misery. Dolly had none. She didn’t even remember driving home, but knew she had when she found her car in the garage and keys in her purse where they should have been.
She had to admit that she was feeling a little less persecuted as Dilford’s unwanted partner, and she guessed that it was less the drunken night at The House of Misery than it was the experience with the boat people. Dolly was learning that shared horror diminished hostility.
With Dilford suffering a hangover, she was driving today. He sat in the passenger seat with his head back, eyes closed, mouth open, dozing fitfully.
The radio calls had so far been routine, and most of them could be handled without disturbing Dilford. Dilford had enough police experience to be able to sleep through the noise of the radio calls, awakening only when he heard their unit number.
Dolly thought she’d missed a major hotshot call when she saw three black-and-whites parked alongside Echo Park. After she made a quick turn and cruised up to them, she saw that it was Jane Wayne and Rumpled Ronald talking with two K-9 cops, one of them being horny Hans. He was grinning and waving her over. Unable to get gracefully away, Dolly drove up to the other black-and-white
s and parked. Jane Wayne said, “
Wanna see something impressive, Dolly? Come watch them work these dogs.”
“What’s going on?” Dilford mumbled, opening one eye.
“Go back to sleep,” Dolly said, getting out of the car and following Jane Wayne across the grass to where Hans, dressed in the dark-blue jumpsuit uniform of the K-9 cop, worked Ludwig with a protective sleeve over his arm.
Dolly sat on the grass and watched the huge black Rottweiler snarl and roar while he clamped onto that sleeve and eventually pulled the skinny cop flat on his belly.
The other K-9 cop and his partner, a feisty German shepherd, were raring to go. The dog’s name was Goethe, and he was an old pal of Ludwig’s back in the kennel in Hamburg. They were trained together, shipped to Los Angeles together, were both bought and donated to the police department by a Palos Verdes plastic surgeon, and underwent further police training side by side.
In that the American cops couldn’t say “Goethe,” the German shepherd became known as Gertie, which The Bad Czech said was a pretty faggy name for a male German shepherd. Hans and the other K-9 cop often met in various parks around central Los Angeles and worked their dogs to keep them sharp, issuing commands in German, which was all the dogs understood. They let the two animals romp on the grass as a reward for a good training session.
Ludwig was twenty-five pounds heavier than Gertie, but Gertie was faster, and they loved to play-fight and growl and bite each other affectionately and roll around like old pals from puppyhood. Perhaps in their canine memory they recalled the bad old days back home where the weather wasn’t so good and they lived in kennels and didn’t have their own humans as they did now.
The Los Angeles Police Department had been slow to acquire dogs, fearing the bad image of southern cops unleashing police dogs on black people in the old days of civil rights marches. Blacks were generally terrified of the animals, no doubt as a result of the archetypal myth of master, hound and slave, as well as of later use in crowd control. Whites were just about as fearful of snarling police dogs as blacks, but Mexicans were generally unafraid. Or at least their machismo demanded that they show no fear when faced with dogs. There had been several incidents of Mexicans challenging a police dog to a fight.
There were other more interesting things to learn. For example, police dogs tended to acquire the traits of the partners with whom they worked and lived. Gertie was like her partner, an energetic young cop, very action oriented and, according to his personnel reports, a bit too impulsive.
Ludwig, on the other hand, was more deliberate, like Hans. He enjoyed action, but wanted to know and understand his commands. Ludwig did building-searches in a more methodical way and handled suspect-encounters with less flair and energy.
Gertie had once leaped from one rooftop to another in hot pursuit of a burglar, very nearly suffering the fate of another dog who had lost his life. Ludwig would probably have stopped, looked at the yawning chasm of concrete and tried to figure out in his canine brain how the hell to continue without a death-defying leap.
There were of course other traits that Ludwig had picked up from Hans, such as beer drinking, which Hans would not want his supervisors to know about. And of late they shared a characteristic that Hans wanted no one to know about. This particular trait showed up earlier that very morning.
Hans had made a run to Rampart Station to see if a certain foxy little records clerk was on duty. While he was lurking around the watch commander’s office, Too-Tired Loomis, who was wearily trying to get up the energy to lift his telephone from the cradle, spotted the huge Rottweiler staring at him with yellow menacing eyes.
“Officer!” Too-Tired Loomis said to the K-9 cop. “Is that animal safe to roam around this station?”
“Oh yes, sir,” Hans said. “He’s perfectly safe.”
Then to demonstrate, he walked Ludwig, using his on-duty choker, toward the watch commander. Ludwig wore an L. A. P. D. identification card, complete with his photo, attached to his choker chain.
When Too-Tired Loomis looked at the enormous black face and the drooling tongue, it made him shudder.
“I like dogs,” Too-Tired Loomis said, “but that dog has eyes like … let’s see … his pupils are elongated. Those’re the eyes of … a goat. That’s a decadent-looking dog,” the gray-haired lieutenant said.
“He’s a wonderful dog, Lieutenant,” Hans reassured him. “He’s very lovable.”
And then Ludwig crept forward a few steps and put his heavy head on Too-Tired Loomis’ knee, and he looked up at the lieutenant with eyes as demented as …
“Now I’ve got it!” Too-Tired Loomis said. “He’s got eyes like The Bad Czech. Officer, take this dog out of here.”
But before Hans could take Ludwig away, a terrible thing happened. Ludwig stared up at the gray-haired lieutenant and wagged his tail. And got an erection.
“Oh shit!” Hans cried, but it was too late.
Ludwig growled excitedly and stared at Too-Tired Loomis, and began ejaculating. Right on the lieutenant’s shiny floor.
“It looks like he … uh … he likes you, Lieutenant!” Hans cried nervously.
“Get this filthy creature out!” Too-Tired Loomis bellowed, scaring the crap out of The Bad Czech and Sunney Kee, who were giving each other one last Magilla Gorilla before the monster cop was released for foot patrol.
The Bad Czech came running into the watch commander’s office, took a look and cried, “Ludwig jizzed all over the lieutenant’s floor!”
“Don’t you ever bring that animal in this station again!” Too-Tired Loomis warned the skinny K-9 cop.
“I think you oughtta start carryin a jizz rag, Hans,” Cecil Higgins said.
But what the others didn’t know, and what only a certain Chinatown groupie knew, was that a very strange phenomenon had recently occurred. Ludwig was not only adopting Hans’ characteristics, as is usually the case with K-9 partners. The opposite had also occurred.
Being together so much was causing Hans to react like Ludwig! The last two times he had taken the groupie to a motel he had suffered the humiliation of premature ejaculation. He begged her to tell no one. It was only temporary, he promised her. There was some psychological explanation for the bizarre turn of events, he was sure. Ludwig and Hans were both premature ejaculators.
The last time that Hans fired too early in the motel room, the sneering groupie said, “You better start carrying two jizz rags.”