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Authors: Joseph Wambaugh

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

The Delta Star (9 page)

BOOK: The Delta Star
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***

There were big problems at Rampart Station late that afternoon before the uniformed cops could go end-of-watch. And no matter how mad The Bad Czech got because the entire day watch was being held over pending an investigation by Internal Affairs, they stayed. The captain and the lieutenant and the headhunters from Internal Affairs would not have agreed with The Bad Czech, who was stomping around the locker room saying that they were overreacting and that it wasn’t anything to get excited about. However, it wasn’t every day that one of the cops tried to murder a sergeant.

The uniformed cops were instructed to remain in the assembly room while a latent-prints spec
ialist dusted a locker for finr
gerprints at the direction of the headhunters.

“Nobody tried to murder no sergeant!” The Bad Czech thundered. “Somebody just played a little trick, is all. I think it’s the fault a Rose Bird and the supreme court. Nobody around here has a sense a humor no more.”

As it turned out, Sergeant Milo Jones certainly lost his sense of humor. He lost it at the exact moment a pin was pulled from a hand grenade, and the spoon went flying in his face, and a grenade that never blew up blew Milo Jones right into the hospital.

Sergeant Milo Jones, all the cops knew, was a snitch, a direct conduit to the brass for everything the troops did. He rarely snitched on anyone above the rank of sergeant, since he feared higher authority.

Milo Jones was a man who, like Mario Villalobos, had shrunk an inch in middle age, but he was never very big to begin with. Unlike Mario Villalobos, he didn’t spread out but somehow got skinnier after a duodenal ulcer and a frequently fluttering heart. It was quite obvious that police work was very dangerous for the Milo Joneses of this world. In addition to the stress on an already anxious man, the years of snitching on errant cops had so far resulted in the tires on his private car being filled with cement, in his police hat being super-glued to a toilet seat, and in an assault by a sleeping “wino” in an alley who coldcocked Sergeant Jones from the blind side and was seen to be wearing suspicious black ripple-soled shoes when he made his escape over a fence in his rag-picking garb.

Milo Jones was one of those supervisors they called by various names such as “S. I. S.” Jones (snoot in the shit) or “A. I. T.” Jones (anus in the teeth), referring of course to his relationship with the brass. The cops settled on a handle for Sergeant Jones when one day in the locker room The Bad Czech was bitching because most of the patrol cops, male and female, enjoyed relaxed standards these days so far as wearing the police hat was concerned. But the beat cops like himself and Cecil Higgins still had to keep the lid on while on foot patrol. He said the only reason the brass knew who was or wasn’t wearing hats was because they always had their asses in the faces of certain sergeants who spoke to them through the chocolate tube.

“Real cops got balls that clang when they w
alk,” The Bad Czech announced. “
Our leaders got balls that chime like Baccarat.”

When Sergeant Milo Jones heard this he got cross and grumpy, but not too cross and grumpy because his eyeline only touched the third button on The Bad Czech’s uniform shirt. Sergeant Jones said, “You wouldn’t say that to the captain’s face!”

To which The Bad Czech replied, “Hell, I just did. Everybody knows you’re a pipeline.”

That did it. From then on, Sergeant Milo Jones was Pipeline Jones. They say that even his wife started calling him Pipeline when she was feeling bitchy, and that didn’t help the duodenal ulcer.

Sometimes though, Pipeline Jones was handy to have around because the cops could feed him bum information which they knew would get back to the brass. For instance, two cops could speak sotto voce in the coffee room, knowing that Pipeline Jones was lurking around the corner. They could say things like, “I just saw The Bad Czech over at the hospital with The Den Mother!” when they knew full well that The Bad Czech was innocently eating a pastrami sandwich in MacArthur Park.

That bit of news might send Pipeline Jones flying to his car and off to a hospital on the border of Hollywood and Rampart divisions where a certain nymphomaniac nurse, called The Den Mother, worked in the emergency ward and did her civic duty for the boys in blue by going down on every injured cop they ever brought in on a stretcher. She was the kind that gave a little flower lapel pin to each one, her signature. The cops said they were going to have a flower child convention some time, but that it would have to be held at the L. A. Memorial Coliseum, which seated 90,000.

Things got out of hand with The Den Mother when cops from San Pedro to Foothill were asking to be taken to her hospital when they were injured on duty. One evening there were more cops with phony bandages in the waiting room than had attended the nightwatch roll call. Some of the uniformed cops weren’t even on duty. That’s when Pipeline Jones and the other supervisors were ordered to put a stop to it.

The Final Order came from on high, as it were. From Deputy Chief Delmore Downs, the chaplain of the police department and a fundamentalist Christian who wasn’t born again because, the cops said, he came here by immaculate deception the first time. Deputy Chief Delmore Downs went so far as to offer a prayer at Rampart Division roll call when he was giving a hellfire warning about the Hollywood cops who had just been exposed in the media for having engaged in everything from grand theft and burglary to sex encounters in Griffith Park, with everyone from street prostitutes to girl scouts.

Deputy Chief Downs hadn’t liked it one bit when someone pulled a dirty trick on him that day. An unknown lyricist had penned a disgusting religious song with bawdy biblical allusions. It was recorded on cassette and broadcast from the deputy chief’s own car radio to all hands. The religious song was dedicated to Deputy Chief Delmore Downs and was sung by a male soprano.

The final straw was when some unknown cop penciled out a bogus crime report alleging multiple counts of child molestation around the playground in Echo Park and listing as the suspect someone who unquestionably fit the description of the gangly deputy chief, who was speaking to an Echo Park citizens group that day. The rumor that the deputy chief was a child molester spread like herpes. There were hundreds of cops only too willing to believe it. Finally, a cartoon appeared in the vilest underground newspaper in Los Angeles. It was penned by someone who identified himself as the Renoir of Rampart Station. It was a picture of a huge ugly chickenhawk carrying off a baby. The chickenhawk wore the hat and insignia of a deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Deputy Chief Downs took Pipeline Jones aside on his last visit to Rampart Division. He told the little sergeant that he knew he could be trusted. He said that he would be eternally grateful for his help. He wanted the balls of the “artist” who drew the scurrilous cartoon.

Pipeline Jones was everywhere. Cops complained that they saw him in their rearview mirror wherever they went. That he watched them with binoculars from the roofs of buildings. That their lockers were disturbed each time they returned at end-of-watch, and the glove compartments of their private cars were ransacked. Of course, the majority of the complaints were symptoms of the paranoia that inflicts police everywhere. Pipeline Jones could not have done a fraction of the things he was accused of, but he did in fact poke through lockers when the cops were out on the streets. He sprung a few of their traps, which proved it: broken threads and tiny bits of paper which paranoid police officers attach to the doors of their lockers.

And after two frustrating weeks of not finding a single lead in the locker room of the troops, Pipeline Jones on his own authority checked the locker room of fellow supervisors, even those who outranked him, which was about the bravest act of his police career. The reason he considered such a daring maneuver was that he heard two cops in the rest room (they couldn’t hope for privacy even sitting on the toilet) engaged in a conversation about a certain lieutenant being an “artiste.” In that same conversation he heard one of the cops announce to the cop in the neighboring stall that the lieutenant said that Deputy Chief Downs likes to read the Old Testament while he makes your asshole tight.

What Pipeline Jones didn’t know was that for three days every cop on the day watch was talking sotto voce about that certain lieutenant, hoping to be overheard by Pipeline Jones. It finally worked, in the toilets.

Pipeline Jones immediately crept into the supervisor’s locker room and with fluttering heartbeat approached the locker of a very salty twenty-five-year morning-watch lieutenant whose balls really clanged when he walked.

With his own balls as cold and clammy as his hands and armpits, Pipeline Jones held his breath and, using the master key, dared to open the locker of the salty lieutenant, dreaming of the glory that would be his if he found some evidence. He didn’t know that the morning-watch lieutenant had been on vacation for three weeks. But the day-watch troops knew it for sure.

When Pipeline Jones opened the locker, a loop of fishing line pulled the pin from a hand grenade. The spoon flew in the face of Pipeline Jones, giving him a shiner. He yelped, grabbed his eye, heard a hiss, smelled sulfur or cordite, and even before the “explosion,” which was the equivalent of a cherry bomb but sounded much louder within the locker, Pipeline Jones was on the deck experiencing what they called a mild heart attack. He ended up in the emergency ward of the hospital where The Den Mother gave him the E. K. G., leered, and offered him a little flower.

It was a U. S. Army practice grenade which proved to be untraceable. The vacationing lieutenant knew nothing about it but wasn’t particularly sorry when told that someone used his locker for the dirty trick. Pipeline Jones went off, I. O. D. (injured on duty), and began to display every stress symptom known to medicine including asthma attacks.

The Bad Czech and the others were allowed to leave after the headhunters interrogated everyone for three hours. That meant that he and Jane Wayne ended up at The House of Misery at eight o’clock and settled for two bowls of disgusting gruel which Leery called clam chowder.

They were half blitzed, but both Dolly and Dilford were totally wrecked when Mario Villalobos came in at ten o’clock.

“Disgust
ing! Revolting
!” Jane Wayne said of her chowder as Mario Villalobos took his accustomed seat at the end of the bar.

The detective thought that Jane Wayne was looking particularly androgynous tonight in her cowboy shirt, riding boots and skin-tight jeans. The Bad Czech was reading the L. A. Times while eating chowder at the bar and was wearing his brand new Jordache jeans.

Which caused Dolly to say, “I see The Bad Czech has on his Sergio Valente portlies. If someone told him to haul ass, it’d take two trips.”

“Those big buns’re so bound up I don’t think he could fart,” Dilford noted boozily.

“That’s okay with me,” Dolly said, weaving on the stool.

“I’ll have a very dry vodka martini,” Mario Villalobos said to Leery, who nodded and gave him three ounces of straight vodka, no twist, no rocks.

Leery winked at Rumpled Ronald as if to say, very dry martini. Sure. Give Leery straight-vodka drinkers every time.

Rumpled Ronald turned his rumpled face to Mario Villalobos and scratched his rumpled belly and said, “I only got twenty-five hours and fifty minutes to go. I think I’m gonna make it!”

“That’s wonderful, Ronald,” Mario Villalobos said.

“I ain’t givin odds on makin it to thirty,” Cecil Higgins observed, gargling his Johnnie Walker Red. “Bein partners with The Bad Czech I don’t think I kin last that long without landin in San Quentin and gettin my asshole stretched big enough for ten midgets to dance a polka in.”

Dilford sipped his Scotch and turned to Dolly saying, “Maybe it ain’t gonna be so bad after all, working with the crack squad. Maybe there’s a place for broads. Okay, so you’re a five-foot mini-cop. We’d probably have Toulouse-Lautrec walking a beat if he was around today.”

“I’m glad John Wayne isn’t alive to see what police work’s come to,” Dolly said sarcastically.

Suddenly Jane Wayne yelled, “Goddamnit, Leery! There’s something in my clam chowder with six legs and it’s doing a backstroke medley!”

“So drop it on the floor and break its neck,” The Bad Czech said. He hated yelling and screaming while he was reading the L. A Times, which was nerve-racking enough.

Then The Bad Czech started yelling and screaming: “Goddamni
t
, listen to this! It says here, ‘California’s foreign born is the highest in the whole country, most from Latin America and Asia. Los Angeles is the port of entry for the world. Four times as many refugees as New York. Hollywood High has students from forty-three countries!’ “

“If I live to get my pension I gotta get outa here!” Rumpled Ronald suddenly cried boozily. “I went to the department shrink the other day and told him I should get a seventy-five percent stress pension. I got symptoms. I’m a burnout. He asks me if I got a pension what would I do? Can you imagine? What would I do? I’d move back to the United States of America! What does he think I’d do? I’m sick a El Salvadorans and Nicaraguans and Cubans and Puerto Ricans. I’m sick a Cambodians and Laotians and Vietnamese and …”

“I just don’t like people putting paws in petunias,” Jane
Wayne said very softly, and The Bad Czech patted her hand as if to say, there, there.

To change the subject and get Rumpled Ronald quieted down, since everyone knew he was totally bonzo from being so close to his pension, The Bad Czech said, “Here’s one for ya. It says in the Times that the Russians caught some official sellin large amounts a caviar to a Western firm. Get this. He labeled it smoked herring and pocketed the difference. Whaddaya think ya get in Russia when they catch ya sellin dead fish to a
capitalist
? Anybody wanna guess? Siberia? Castration? Nope.” The Bad Czech tossed down his seventh double of the night and said, “I’ll tell ya. Ya get exceptional means of punishment. That means a bullet in the back a your fuckin head. Whaddaya get in L. A. for blowin away your neighbor cause he won’t let ya steal his stereo? Ya get a hunnerd-dollar fine for shootin a gun in the city limits is what ya get.”

BOOK: The Delta Star
6.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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