Streets: One for the Gipper

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
It is a hot summer day. A young man, a high school student is threatening suicide with his gang banger brothers hand gun. 3 LPD cops ride like the Cavalry to the rescue, but the successful rescue raises a controversy played out in the newspapers. Read about their heroic performances here.

Submitted: May 30, 2015

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Submitted: May 30, 2015

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4:30 p.m. on a hot late spring Wednesday, 1987.  It’s just another day in the valley.  The hot asphalt raises blisters on bare feet, rolled up windows on parked cars are fracturing, birds aren’t flying, and not even desert cockroaches are coming out of their holes. 

Three police officers leave the police parking lot and walk across the railroad tracks into the Eastside. It’s their Monday.  They have just then come on duty and advise dispatch that they are on foot patrol in the vicinity of 12th and J Streets—a housing project known as “the Gardens.”

The Lead Dispatch comes over the radio.  “Station L to Paul3.”

The beat cop responds, “Paul3.”

“Paul3, hysterical woman reporting a juvenile with a gun threatening suicide at 1034 I Street apartment 203.  We’ve been holding for thirty.  Will you handle?” 

“In route.”

“The suspect is a male black juvenile, 17 years, dark skin, slight build, short hair, wearing an LHS basketball uniform.  He is threatening suicide with a handgun, NFD.”  No further description.

“10-4.” 

The alley on the north side of “I” Street is littered with trash, car parts and other spillage from alley driveways.  The hot afternoon air is thick with the smell of discarded engine oil, stale urine, feces and rotting garbage.  They approach along the south side because it puts them in defilade to the kid with the gun.Their handy talkies are turned down and they walk in silence.

The officers reconnoiter the perimeter of the apartment complex and peek through the fence at the other end of the courtyard.  The kid with the gun is sitting in front of the door to the apartment where the unidentified woman telephoned from.  He’s crying and snot is running down his face.  He wipes the snot off with his free hand but it comes back.  An unseen male is heard talking.

They move along the fence to the courtyard alley entrance.  Paul3, Officer Tommy O’Brien, peeks around the corner of building.  A slender black male, in his twenties, is standing on the stairs a few yards from the kid with the gun.  He lounges against the banister:  blue running shoes, blue jogging suit, blue handkerchief wrapped around his head—tied in knot on his forehead.  His sleeves are pushed up showing a tattoo of a machine gun and the word “gangster” on one forearm.  “Go on nigger.  Get on wit chew bad self.  You got the gun.  Do it.  Do it.  Cause I want my “nines” back so’s I’s can get on wit bidness my own self.”  He laughs.  “A yellow nigga, ain’t that sumpin?”  He laughs again.

The kid with the gun grimaces and sticks the gun barrel in his ear.  An unseen woman is sobbing and begging, “No, no, no…”

He’s cries harder.  “I love you, Mom.  Mom?” 

Mom is screaming berserk.  “I love you, too.  I love you, too.  Don’t, don’t, don’t.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  Just put the gun down, sweetie, put the gun down.  Things’ll work out.  Things’ll be okay.”

The Crip can’t let this go by.  “No they won’t.  You was born in this shithole and you gonna die in this shithole.  Those people don’t give a shit about you, or me.  The President called us ‘welfare bums.’”

“I am not!”  The kid’s face is knotted and he is squeezing the gun handle.  The gun barrel is still stuck in his ear.  He points it at the man on the stairway.  “I’ll shoot you, too.”  He is crying so hard he begins to cough.

“Oh yeah.  So, these white motherfuckers take back all that free money you thought you were going to get and now, you’re gonna shoot me, your brother.  That’s cool.  ‘Cept I don’t think you got the balls to do that neither nigger.”  He pronounces “neither’ with a long “e.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Nigger, nigger, nigger.  Nigger, nigger, nigger.”

The mother steps onto the balcony; her face is twisted and wet with tears and snot.  The kid sticks the gun back in his ear.She stops short, raising her arms in front of her in a pushing motion.  “Jesus Lord God no, no, no…”

The kid with the gun is yelling at her, “Don’t try to stop me!  Don’t touch me!  Don’t touch me, Mama!”  He inhales a load of snot and chokes.

The mother screams, covers her face with her hands and steps back inside.  She is crouched on her knees in a knot with her head down, her hands clenched over her head, her eyes squeezed shut and her teeth clenched.  “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!  Jesus help us Jesus, help us Jesus!”

From inside their apartments, the neighbors yell, “Shut the fuck up!  Fucking do it!  Get it the fuck over with! Do it!  Do it!”

The louder the mother pleads to Jesus the more agitated the kid with the gun and the neighbors become.  He’s grimacing, clenching his teeth and pushing the gun barrel hard in his ear.  He looks like he’s straining to pull the trigger but his trigger finger isn’t moving. 

The kid looks down the barrel of the gun.  He looks away from the gun, toward his mother, “I love you, Mom,” then he looks down the barrel of the gun, wraps his arms around his torso, hugs himself and sits there crying in silence.

The Crip on the stairway starts up again, “Fuck!  Come on!  I have things to do!  Do it!  Do it! Do it!  So I can get my nines and leave.”

The other apartment dwellers, unseen, join in, “Do it.  Do it.  Do it.”  Others are yelling, “Knock off the fucking noise, motherfuckers.”

The three cops walk around to the area below and behind the stairs where the Crip is standing.  The walls of the building and the asphalt are stained with urine and unknown substances.  The urine stench is palpable.  They can see the Crip, but they’re still in defilade to the kid with the gun.

O’Brien steps out from the corner, “Hey, what’s going on?”  He now sees the mother on the balcony, shaking and shivering and down on her knees crying to Jesus, tears dripping from her face.  The kid is scrunching his face with the gun in his ear, bracing himself in anticipation of the bullet, but he’s not pulling the trigger quiet enough.

The Crip on the stairs turns and looks at O’Brien.  O’Brien has his hands in his pockets, like he’s looking at some sort of window display.  Ronnie Baptiste and Emiliano Estrada are back out of view behind the corner of the building. 

“What’s going on?”  O’Brien motions with his head up toward the kid with the gun. 

“Oh this nigger” he laughs at his own humor, “is telling us he gonna kill his sef.”  He looks back up at the kid on the balcony, “Go ‘head nigga.  Pull that trigga!”

“What type of gun does he have?”

“Uh,” He pauses, “I dunno.”

“What’s he upset about?”

“Ahhhh, some guy named Raygun did away with some “Great Society” thing and all the scholarship money for the house niggers and he can’t go to college anymore.  So, he’s having a meltdown.”

“Okay.  Come on down and let me talk to him.”

“Hey man.  I live here.  You go somewhere else.” 

 “Hey, look, come on.  I got a job to do.  Let me do it so I can get out of here.”

The Crip mad dogs the cop but comes down the steps.

From one of the apartments someone yells, “Pig” and makes a pig like snorting sound.

Estrada looks at Baptiste, points at himself, then to the roof above the kid.  Baptiste nods and Estrada disappears around the corner of the apartment.  Baptiste positions himself between O’Brien’s back and the other apartments.

The unseen haranguers continue.  “Hey, Paco Taco, the Frito Bandito went that away motherfucker.  Pigs, Oink, oink.  Hey look, the white cop brought his half-breed house nigger.  Hey, Oreo!”

O’Brien starts up the stairs and gets to where just his head is showing.  “Hey.  Whatcha doin?”

The kid looks over at him, “What’s it look like?”

“Scary.”

The mother stops crying, “Ronnie, Ronnie, please, talk to the man, Ronnie.  Talk to him.”

Ronnie flinches and tries to squeeze the trigger again.

The cop pushes both hands before him, “Ronnie, Ronnie, whoa, whoa.” 

Ronnie looks at O’Brien. 

“What’s going on?  Why are you doing this?”

Estrada is creeping down the roof to a point directly above Ronnie.  The right leg of his faded uniform trousers is torn and blood is dripping from his knee, running down his shin into his shoe.  O’Brien moves a little higher on the stairway.  Baptiste changes position to cover O’Brien and maintain his view of the apartments across the courtyard.

“I can’t take it anymore.”

“Take what?”

“All this shit.”  He is holding the gun in his lap, his tears have stopped but his nose is still dripping.  He gestures at the surrounding area and buildings.  “I’m just tired of it.”

“Can you be a little more specific?”  O’Brien moves to the top of the stairs and is standing directly across from Ronnie.  Estrada is on his hands and knees looking over the end of the roof at Ronnie.  Blood is running from his right leg down the shingles and dripping onto the balcony floor.

Mom has gained more control over herself.  She still has the sniffles but is more composed.  “Talk to him, Ronnie.”

“About what?” He’s stopped crying and is angry.  “Take a look around you, Mom.  Breathe through your nose!  The whole neighborhood smells like piss and shit.  These assholes,” he gestures toward the Crip, “hang around in the alleys and on the corners.  You can’t walk down the street without them fucking with you.  They want your lunch or they want your lunch money.  They want you to run errands for them.  To hold their dope for them” He’s crying again, and holding the pistol loosely in his right hand, bouncing the barrel up and down on his right thigh.  “And they piss all over everything!”  He sighs, takes a deep breath and sobs, “I just want out, Mom”

O’Brien is on the balcony with the kid. 

Mother says, “It’s not that bad Ronnie.  We’ll make it.  We’ll be okay.”

“No we won’t.”

“Yes we will.”

And then the Crip, “Come on nigger.  What you gonna do about it?  Shoot yourself.  Get it over with.  Shit!”

O’Brien turns to the Crip, sticks his arm out with his palm toward him and says, “Please don’t say anything else.”

“Who the fuck you talking to?  Man.  I live here.  You in my home.  You don’t talk to me like that in my home.”

Ronnie looks at O’Brien, “See?”

And, Mom, “Not a word more!”  She is angry, now.  Panicking, crying harder and the snot is flowing again.

The Crip sneers, “shit.”

“Ronnie, let’s talk.  Let’s look at all the alternatives before you do something you can’t change.”  O’Brien eases a little closer.  He is on the same floor, leaning against a corner of the stucco building, about twenty feet from Ronnie.  The floor is cluttered with children’s toys, plastic tricycles, lawn chairs, empty malt liquor cans and squashed cigarette butts.  Here too, there is a smell of stale urine and soured beer. 

“Yeah, nigger.  Let’s look at this from diff’rent angles.  You gonna shoot you self in the left ear, or the right ear?  Cause, you don’t wanna fuck up your good photo side.”  The Crip laughs at his own joke.

O’Brien, still leaning against the corner, looks back at the Crip, “Don’t say anything else.”

“Fuck you.  I live here.”

O’Brien looks back at Ronnie.  “Why is today different from yesterday?”

Ronnie looks at O’Brien, his face is scrunched up and tears are dripping from his eyes.  His shoulders slump and he stops bouncing the gun up and down on his thigh.  “They cancelled all of the money for the grants and scholarships.  The President and the Governor took away the money.  I was supposed to go to State next year,” his voice rises and breaks and sounds more like a plea than a complaint, “and, now I can’t.”  His head tilts sideways, “That’s the way I was going to get Mom out of this,” he motions at the surrounding filth with his head.  “And he called us all ‘welfare bums.’”

“Who said that?”

Ronnie’s face is scrunching up again.  “The President!”

“Ronnie, the President didn’t say that.  And, the Governor didn’t say that, either.  Ronnie, Ronnie, look at me, look at me, as long as you’re breathing, there’s hope. ”

“No there’s not.  Mr. Poole, my Social Studies teacher says he did.”

“Mr. Poole is wrong.  Talk to your counselor.”

“I did.”  He inhales a flood of snot through his nose.  “She says we’ll try and that “there’s always hope.”

“Who’s your counselor?” 

“Flor Cabrillo.”

 “La Flor del Valle Cabrillo? (The Flower of the Valley Cabrillo)  Man!  How do you rate a babe like that for your counselor?  My high school counselor looked like an overweight walrus and smelled like a gym locker.”

The kid smiles, wipes his nose with the back of his gun hand and says, “Just lucky, I guess.”

“Wait.”  The cop lifts his handy talkie, “If I can get her here can we try to work something out?”

“Yeah.”

O’Brien radios the station and asks them to telephone Cabrillo and ask her to come to the station.  A few minutes later, the handy talkie squawks, “Miss Cabrillo is in route to the station.”

“10-4,” O’Brien turns the radio down, “She says she’ll meet us at the station.”

The kid is silent.  Tears are still dripping from both eyes.  Snot is still dripping from his nose.

“How is killing yourself going to help your mother?”

“I don’t know.”  He sets the gun on a small table and stares at it.

O’Brien steps toward the kid.  He is in the hallway now, exposed, stepping and reaching toward the gun.

The kid looks up, stands up and reaches for the gun.

Estrada launches himself into freefall directly above the kid.

O’Brien lurches back, trips over the toys, and falls backward as the kid holds the gun out to him, butt first.

And then, Estrada lands stomach first on the kid.

A few minutes later, Ronnie and his mother are sitting the back of a black and white in route to the station. 

The three cops search the apartment for additional weapons and find none.  Prior to locking the door, they stand silent, looking from each other to a dust free apartment, with clean worn out furniture and a clean worn out carpet, with a clean kitchen and a clean bathroom and a general absence of unclean odors to the filth outside.

The Crip follows them downstairs to the alley and stands with them next to a black and white.  He is smiling like rabbit who just delivered the sacrificial lamb to the wolves.  “What y’all thinks gonna happen ta dat gun?  Think we can get it back?  You know, so’s I can find the rightful owner?  God only knows where the boy got it.”

The three wolves stand silent, their facial muscles twitching, looking at each other.  Estrada turns to watch the other apartments, O’Brien and Baptiste turn to the Crip. 

Too late he realizes he is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Too late he makes to flee.Each officer brings one of his hands up behind his back.  Kicking and twisting, too late he arches up to escape the pain from the wrist holds.  The officers lift even more.  They try to guide him to the hood of the police car, miss and he launches nose first into the urine stained asphalt of the alley.

O’Brien handcuffs him behind his back, Baptiste flex cuffs his feet together, then they bend him double and “flex cuff” the flex cuffs to the handcuffs.  He’s bleeding through his nose, has a knot the size of a golf ball on his forehead and he is screaming like a wounded animal.

Neighbors pour out of the surrounding apartments.  “Oh man, that ain’t right.  That ain’t right.” 

A man comes out of one of the apartments and goes to Baptiste, “Come on brutha, Give thuh brutha a break.”

Baptiste extends his hand, palm out, “Stay back.  He’ll be okay.”

“Muthafucka.  Fuckin’ muthafucka.  Fuckin’ Oreo muthafucka.  Let ‘im go muthafuckas.”

“Yeah!  Let ‘im go! Let ‘im go, yeah!  Yeah!  Yeah!  Fuckin’ police brutality!  Police brutality!”

One man takes a position at center court yelling up at the other apartments.  “This ain’t right!  This ain’t right.  This man wasn’t doing anything.  He was just asking questions about his brother.  He has a right to do that.  They wouldn’t do this to a white man!”

A crowd of angry people gather.  The people at the back of the crowd are the loudest, “Let ‘im go, muthafuckas.  Let ‘im go.”

“Fuckin’ pigs.  Oink, oink.”

The three cops climb into the black and white with the Crip for the ride back to the station.

Rocks and bottles bounce off the car and shatter in the street. They drive away.  The cop driving the car looks in the rear view mirror.  “You guys sure bring out the best in people.”

A beer bottle bursts against the rear window.  “Oh, shit.”  All four cops duck reflexively and laugh.

Thursday morning, the Chief arrives to the vision of Beatrice Chesterfield, City Councilwoman, giving press interviews on the front steps of the police department and a waiting room full of reporters and community leaders.  The public relations officer is scrambling to determine what happened.  Records Division can’t find the arrest report and the Watch Commander’s Log has only a very brief entry.The dispatch cards indicate that the call was held for thirty minutes before police were dispatched.  No one knows why it was held.

Ethel, the Chief’s Secretary greets him with “The shit hit the fan last night” and hands him the morning paper.  The headline, “Cops Beat Local Hero,” is accompanied by photos of the injured suspect handcuffed to an emergency room bed, staring balefully at the camera, a scraped nose and what looks like a blunt unicorn horn growing from the center of his forehead.  The reported story is filled with testimonials from witnesses, who speak only on condition of anonymity because they fear police reprisal, as to his heroic attempts, in complete disregard for his own safety, to calm and disarm his hysterical brother, before he was brutally thrown about the alley and beaten by the police officers.  By noon, picketers are three deep around the station and the watch commander has assigned two police officers to traffic control at the entrance and exit to the patrol parking lot.  The Mayor calls an emergency City Council meeting for that evening and Beatrice is on the six o’clock news on all the local television stations commiserating about the police department’s long history of oppressing, abusing and otherwise ignoring  the Constitutional and civil rights of minorities.

The Chief arrives at the Emergency Council meeting with the young man who had been threatening suicide, his mother and his high school counselor.  Councilwoman Chesterfield immediately protests the child’s presence.  He is but a child and he should not under any circumstances be subjected to this exposure, to this abuse, and the Chief of Police should be ashamed for coercing both he and his mother into coming to the meeting. 

Turning her best side to the camera’s on the front steps of City Hall, “Have you no honor, sir?  Are there no depths to which you will not slither?  No depravity or abuse of position so egregious as to be off limits to self-serving promotions at the expense of a young child’s dignity and the public safety?” 

The other Council members vote to hear the kid’s testimony but to do so in Executive Session so as to minimize his public exposure.  Afterward, Councilwoman Chesterfield laments that, by law, she may not comment on the proceedings or the young man’s testimony, but she is very disturbed by the Council’s cavalier treatment of the child and hints at possible coercion and manipulation of his testimony.

The Friday morning paper is replete with statements from informed sources about coerced testimony before the city council.  There are also interviews with civil rights experts and experts on the history of police oppression in America.  Editorialists and talking heads opine as to the motivation for the City’s apparent reluctance to take disciplinary action against the involved officers.  Others lament the City’s Affirmative Action program gone astray that has resulted in so many unqualified minorities being hired as police officers. 

Still more unnamed sources and experts shed light on here-to-for unknown differences within the department.  Many police officers, including persons in ‘leadership’ positions, consider the Eastside too dangerous and are reluctant to dispatch police officers to calls on that side of town.  The supervising Night Watch Sergeant is being criticized by “long time veteran police officers speaking on the condition of anonymity” for exposing his subordinates to the hazards of walking a foot patrol in that part of town.  A “highly placed police official,” also speaking on the condition of anonymity, says “It’s too dangerous to send police officers in there.  Those people just don’t value life like the rest of us do.  The Chief of Police will understand all too well why we don’t send police officers in there when one of these officers is injured or killed and he has to explain to the City Council why they were there.” 

The police union leadership declines to comment, stating that patrol policy and force deployment configurations are the responsibility of the Chief of Police, but other unnamed sources within the union confide that union leadership has expressed concern about the extreme dangers of patrolling the Eastside and the risks that these foot patrols expose police officers to.  “We’re concerned about police officers being coerced into participating on these patrols.  If a police officer feels that he or she has to volunteer for these patrols to receive a decent performance rating, he or she is being coerced.”  Other undisclosed sources about labor unrest inside the police department are quoted in regards to racial discrimination between police officers, “You notice those are mostly minority police officers, they won’t send white cops over there.”

The Friday six o’clock news is packed with experts in police abuse and oppression, astute scholars and wise men and women who had never walked a beat or worn a blue uniform:  “Police attitudes toward minorities are a legacy of slavery, of deep rooted fears of white males everywhere of the surging tide of political and social equality.” 

Saturday morn, Councilwoman Chesterfield pays extra for her hair stylist to see her early so as to better prepare to address the protest rally at City Hall that afternoon.

Saturday afternoon, another oven like day in the valley, concerned citizens from as far away as the next town and B movie social activist movie stars and starlets from as far away as North Hollywood parade up and down the sidewalk directly in front of the station with misspelled signs protesting Gestapo tactics and a police state.  Regional White Supremacists and Separatists parade on the opposite sidewalk in counter protest.  Each side claims peaceful motivation and a pure birthright rooted in the Constitution of the United States of America.  Each parades up and down its side of the street, loudly agitating the people on the other side of the street.  Other local law enforcement agencies and the State Highway Patrol respond to assist the local police and they join together in a thin blue and khaki line down the middle of the street, separating peace loving advocates of the American way of life.

Sunday morning, calm returns to the teapot.

 Wednesday afternoon, late spring.  The temperature approaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  It isn’t cool in the shade.

The Chief sits behind his desk, “That’s it?”

The Sergeant sits in a straight back chair directly in front of the Chief’s large desk. His dark blue uniform is crisply creased.  His black leather boots and gun belt are shined and the yellow brass buckle and keeper buttons on his gun belt are brightly polished.  “That’s it.”

“Good job.”

 “I’ll pass that on to them.”

“Ethel,” the Chief motions toward the front office, “will type up letters to document that opinion.  I’ll have her give your guys the originals and she’ll put copies in their personnel folders after they initial them.

The Sergeant nods and looks at his watch, “Thank you.”

I can’t talk about the boy’s testimony to the Council, but he said something about “Oreo.”  I don’t understand the significance of that. ”

“Oreo cookies are black on the outside, white on the inside.  Some of the people over there call Baptiste an ‘Oreo,’ especially when he arrests one of them”

“Does his mother still live over there?”

“Yeah.”

The Chief swivels his chair and looks out his window and across the tracks to the Eastside.  “You know, as long as I’ve been around, the people who lived on the eastside have been poor, but, I don’t remember it being like this when I was growing up over there.”

“It wasn’t.”  The Sergeant looks at his watch and asks, “What’s the thing about ‘welfare bums.’  Did the President say that?”

“Back when the President was running for Governor, he promised to get the ‘welfare bums’ off the welfare rolls.  That was at least twenty years ago.”

 “Flor says he wants to get rid of a lot of the federally funded education grants and loans but that there is other money out there for students like this kid.  She says this specific teacher, William Poole, enjoys antagonizing the kids who are dependent on that type of aid to go on to college. ”

“I don’t know.  I can’t figure out why a teacher would tell his students something like that.”  The Chief makes a sweeping motion as though he is cleaning his desk.“Your guys make a lot of arrests over there.  Do you do those foot patrols every night?”

“Almost, seems like there’s always somebody who wants to.  I don’t personally do them every night—too many other things to tend to—but Estrada, Baptiste, O‘Brien, Williams, Garcia, the new transfer, Irma Lopez, and a couple the other guys, do.  It depends on how busy we are with radio calls.”

“Why can’t you do the same thing from a black and white?”

“You move too fast to see what is going on, and the cars are noisy and visible.  During daylight hours, they see it coming from blocks away.  At night, they can see the profile or they recognize the headlights.”  He looks at his watch again.

“So, why do they do it.”

“Do what?”

“Why do they do it?  Why do these officers do this?”

“The patrols?”

“Yes.”

“That’s where the work is.”He pauses, reflecting, “It’s why we became police officers.  Plus, I think we all enjoy the adrenalin, too.”

“There’s work all over town.”

 “Not the same.”  He’s speaking slowly, looking out the Chief’s corner window to the Eastside, shaking his head, “Not the same. This is doing something good, striking back at the bad things in life.  It is what we became police officers to do.” 

The Chief says nothing, but spreads his hands, palms out as though he were opening a space for the cop to talk.

 “Sometimes, I think that these guys grew up believing the message in all that Norman Rockwell Americana stuff.  Maybe they watched too many Gunsmoke or Randolph Scott cowboy shows.  These guys really believe that peace officers are suppose to make our city a safer place to live, a safer place for little girls to play sidewalk hopscotch and for little boys to play sandlot baseball.  Just like life in a Norman Rockwell magazine cover.  The Eastside is where the crime is, that’s where the criminals are and that is where these guys go to find work.”  He shrugs, “Hey, putting assholes in jail is fun.”  He looks at his watch again.

“Some of the staff question the wisdom of the patrols.”

 “Chief,” the blue uniformed cop is now clearly exasperated.  This is not the first time he has dealt with this issue.  “This is not the Ashau Valley and it isn’t Hue during the Tet Offensive, its Lechugaville, CA.”  He pronounces “CA” “Cee Aaa” with a long “C” and a long “A”.  “Those people over there” pointing out the window across the tracks to the Eastside,  “can’t come out of their homes at night because those dope dealing sons of bitches beat them and threaten to kill them or their children if they disrupt their dope sales.  They can’t walk to the corner grocery store to buy clean diapers for their babies.  The man who runs the corner grocery store has to keep the doors locked during business hours.  Those are good people. They shouldn’t have to live like that.  If they can’t look to the Police for help, who can they look to?”  He didn’t wait for an answer.  “The United Nations?  The NAACP?  The Rainbow Coalition?  The KKK?  One of those piece of shit experts on the six o’clock news?The Union?  We can’t just surrender half of our town to a bunch of motherless fucks with snot rags tied around their heads.”  He’s angry and the words flow fast, “If those ‘experts’ giving all the ‘inside information’ to the press don’t want to do the job, they need to turn in their uniforms and badges and start driving buses.”  He looks at his watch.

The Chief sits motionless, expressionless, “It was just a question.”

“It was just an answer.”

The Chief pauses, “Have you ever thought about anger management counseling? The City will pay for it.  It’s confidential.”

“Have you ever thought about hiring police officers to replace these other slugs?”  He looks at his watch again.

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?”

 “It’s my Monday.  I have to get ready for briefing.”

“You guys walking a foot beat over there tonight?”

“Probably.  I have to check the staffing.  Estrada and O’Brien are here, but Baptiste took the night off.  It’s his daughter’s birthday.  I think they went to Disney Land.”

“Good for him.  How is Estrada’s leg doing?”

“It’s okay.  He takes those blood thinners so when he gets cut, he bleeds a lot.  That rain gutter cut him pretty good; I think they put a couple of stitches in it.”

“Mind if I walk with you guys a while, tonight?

“Nah, we don’t mind.  Want me to come get you?

The Chief looks at the pile of paper in his “in box.”  “No.  If I can get away, I’ll find you.”

Again, the Sergeant looks at his watch.

“Why are you sitting there?”

“I’m waiting for you to finish talking.”

“Go.”

A half an hour later, the Chief is struggling with the cap of the container of his arthritis pain reliever. He looks out the window and sees Estrada, O’Brien and the Sergeant crossing the highway toward the railroad tracks.  He looks at photos on his wall; an old yellowed black and white of young soldiers in a land far away in a time long ago, another of young street cops in the back lot in a time almost as long ago.

Ethel comes in and sees the officers crossing the tracks.  “Where is Baptiste?”

“It’s his daughter’s birthday.  He took her to Disney Land.  I have to go.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Ethel straightens the papers on the Chief’s desk and sees the three uniformed cops stop, turn and look toward the police station.  Then the Chief jogs across the highway toward them.  She looks at the old photos of young men she knew decades ago and then back to the Chief and the three cops entering the Eastside on foot.  She picks up the Chief’s bottle of pain reliever and puts the lid on correctly.

“Good for him.”


© Copyright 2020 Eddie C Morton. All rights reserved.

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