Continued from Chapter 14.
From the copper colored ’74 Buick Regal, parked less than fifty yards away, Leonard Jefferson and Christopher Swank had watched in silence as Lester was arrested by the undercover narcs and the subsequent struggle. To their amusement, they also watched the two narcs being helped into a paramedic van and driven away a few minutes later. This did not, however, lessen the blow from the loss of profit they would have realized had Lester sold the 150 hits of LSD and not been arrested.
“Dumbshit,” grumbled Christopher. “I spotted those narcs a mile away.” Christopher was a skinny middle aged speed freak. He combed his thinning, greasy brown hair over the bald spot on top of his head. His droopy moustache was equally thin and looked more like a cheap disguise than the real thing. A native of Linda Vista, a small racially mixed lower income community overlooking Mission Valley to the south, Christopher was currently on parole from Chino State Prison where he had been serving time for his fifth conviction for possession and distribution of methamphetamine. Christopher had met Leonard while in the joint and had hooked up with him upon his release.
“That’s what I get for trying to branch out and diversify. I gotta just stick with crystal,” replied Leonard matter of factly. He had been paroled six months earlier, after three years of a ten year term for armed robbery and kidnap. While at Chino, Leonard had put his time to good use lifting weights and kicking a long term drug habit which included, among other substances, crystal.
He had also spent a great deal of his time reading in the prison library. He entered his last stint with less than a high school education. By the time he was paroled, he had read everything available on business and marketing. Leonard did not, however, put this information to use on the NASDAQ. Rather, he applied what he had gleaned from his studies in another commodity, drugs. Drugs would always be in demand, and it was simply a matter of providing the right target group with the desired product. Today’s experiment had been a bust, literally.
He had taken a chance on using Lester, an unproven street dealer from Ocean Beach. Lester had provided his own lookouts, who were great at spotting marked police cars but nothing else. Lester was not discreet and Leonard had been just about ready to pull him when he and Christopher noticed the two narcs. They could only watch as the bust went down. His only real concern was if Lester felt inclined to roll over him. Lester was weak. That was why Leonard had associates like Christopher. Christopher and a handful of others kept his underlings in line under the threat of great bodily injury. Leonard also kept a low, clean profile in case Christopher or his other enforcers failed in their respective duties. Any search of his cottage or vehicles would reveal nothing to tie him to any drug activity. That would be at a minimum, violation of parole and Leonard was not going back.
But it was only a small investment which Leonard lost this afternoon. His real profits came from the production and sale of methamphetamine. He had three active mobile laboratories under his control in the North County. The decline of the floral nursery business in Carlsbad and Vista left a number of large flower farms vacant. The farm buildings were located far enough from homes and commercial areas that the cooking could take place without fear of someone smelling the chemicals used in the process. Additionally, the access to these buildings was generally by old one-lane roads which meandered several miles from any major highway. His workers could spot anyone approaching the operation in time to give plenty of warning, using new cellular telephones to the “cooks.” The cooks would have time to burn the factory and escape before the arrival of any law enforcement officers. The properties were all leased for only a month or two under aliases, so it was next to impossible to trace the remains of any factory back to him.
Distribution was an area in which Leonard exercised great caution. He lived by the old adage, “Don’t piss in your own backyard.” After manufacture, the product was shipped to the Mid-West and East Coast. If and when someone was arrested and tracing back to the source began, Leonard had the advantage of interagency law enforcement rivalry to muddle things. Cooperation was not always a big consideration in the war on drugs under any administration. He also altered each batch of product to the extent no two bore the same chemical signature.
So far, in his short new-found career, Leonard had managed to make four shipments out of the county and realize a healthy profit. Unfortunately for Leonard, things were about to change, at first insignificantly, but change nonetheless. The first error he made was to drive in Christopher’s car today.
Louis St. Jean Batiste had been assigned to traffic division after one year with the Department. That was nineteen years ago. Within fifteen months, he had been accepted into the motorcycle squad, or “motors.” He had started on a Harley Davidson police special and weathered several horrible years on Hondas before the current administration returned to a buy American policy. He had refused to take the sergeant’s examination and turned down every offer to work investigations. He was content with motors and planned to finish his career there.
Originally from a small parish outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Louis had settled in San Diego after serving in the U.S. Navy. He had applied and been accepted by the Department shortly thereafter. In the early days of affirmative action, he had been an enigma as the only Creole officer on the Department. He could claim as his ancestry Western European, both French and Spanish, Black and Seminole Indian. He also spoke fluent Creole French, which of course was of no use in San Diego, except to him. He was able to insult with a smile on his face and the recipient never knew.
Louis was not a particularly big man, but then of course he did not need to be. Motor officers always looked huge and menacing. Any uniform which included knee high black leather boots, tan riding pants, tan leather gloves, side arm in a black leather holster with matching black leather waist jacket, a helmet and the Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses has always looked more than a little intimidating. Louis’ cream colored skin and standard issue black moustache topped off the ensemble which clearly stated, “Don’t fuck with me.”
Louis was only threatening in uniform. Out of uniform, he suffered from the comical appearance of all veteran motor officers; severe hair loss from years of wearing a helmet and permanent “raccoon eyes.” The raccoon eyes were actually a reverse of the rodent’s identifying feature. The years of wearing Aviator style sunglasses had caused the skin around his eyes to be substantially lighter than the remainder of his weathered face, causing an Al Jolsen effect.
Today, however, Louis was in uniform, and he looked his intimidating best.
Motor officers, while assigned to work specific divisions, are used liberally for any special detail for traffic control and enforcement. Stadium events were an unqualified special event. Prior to the event they insured smooth vehicular traffic movement into the stadium parking lot. At the conclusion of the event, their ability to ease through traffic quickly enabled them to stop the impatient and reckless drivers, many of whom were intoxicated.
Still several hours before the concert, the traffic was entering the stadium at an even, steady flow.
Louis had perched himself at the north entrance of the stadium and was enjoying a brief moment of calm before the real horde of concert goers arrived. He had listened with curiosity to the radio transmissions of Larry Richards and the subsequent search. He had almost left his position to help in the search when he heard the Code Four transmission from Jennifer Starkey. He had watched as the paramedic van came to his exit and he held traffic to allow it to exit. Jennifer and Sam, who still had Lester in the back seat, had escorted the van through the parking lot. After the van left, Jennifer and Sam had stopped before returning to the command post with Lester.
“Good afternoon, cher,” said Louis, flirting with Jennifer. He had always been a sucker for any woman in uniform and Jennifer filled hers out very nicely. Her honey blonde hair pulled back in a French braid was an especially nice touch. He wondered if she was a real blonde.
“What was that all about?” he said, motioning to the van.
“That little asshole dosed Richards and Mills with acid,” interrupted Thompson. Sam was in lust with Jennifer, but she would not give him the time of day. She had made it quite clear on several occasions that they rode in the same car as partners only. Thompson still had hopes that she would change her mind. In the meantime he intended to discourage all potential sources of interference. Motor officers were about as serious as they came, particularly this Black Frenchie.
“Qu’est-ce que c’est? Je ne comprende pas? How did that happen?” responded Louis, ignoring Sam and looking to Jennifer for an answer.
Sam blushed with anger, turning red to the top of his scalp, clearly seen through his flat top. “You know, Batiste, English is the official language of California.”
“Oui, Sammie,” replied Louis, turning to Thompson. “But rudeness is not a virtue. One should not indulge himself in it. Of course if you think Officer Starkey, maybe as a woman, is incapable of speaking when spoken to, then…” he trailed off, raising his hands and shoulders in question.
“Ah, screw you,” replied Thompson, resenting the implication. “I’ve got a report to write.” He stomped petulantly back to the unit and threw himself into the passenger seat to pout.
“How do you put up with him, such a jealous man, one would think you are married,” said Louis, turning back to Jennifer.
“Don’t go there, Louis. It’s not worth it,” said Jennifer.
“So, what happened?” asked Louis.
Jennifer continued, “Mills and Richards arrested that guy in the back for selling acid. There was a little scuffle and some of the acid splashed on them. I guess it soaked in through their skin. They’re tripping pretty good right about now.”
“No. They are okay?” asked Louis.
“I’m not sure,” replied Jennifer. “Uncle Gerry was pretty engrossed with his hand when we found them and Larry thinks he’s Bob Dylan. We’re going to charge the guy with assault with a caustic chemical on a police officer. Maybe that will be enough of a lever for NTF to get him to say who his source is.”
“Well I wonder if they’ll be able to pass their quarterly pee test now,” laughed Louis. “You know cher, changing the subject, if you ever want to transfer to motors, I would consider it an honor to teach you how ride a bike. You would look awfully nice in a motor uniform,” he added, smiling.
“Thank you, no,” Jennifer replied shaking her head, but smiling. “Is that all you guys ever think about?”
“Oui, pretty much,” said Louis feigning defeat.
“We got to get to the command post. Take care, Louis,” she said, getting into the driver’s seat of the unit, giving him a coy look of chastisement.
“Au revoir, cher,” said Louis as he returned to his bike to watch the incoming traffic and imagined a romantic moonlight skinny dip with Jennifer.
“It looks like things have settled down,” said Leonard. “Let’s head on up to the Moonglow. Sheila and Tyrone have probably bailed out Screwie by now. With any luck they’ll be there ahead of us.”
Christopher started up the Buick, which belched a huge cloud of exhaust. The engine had not been tuned for some time and caused the car to vibrate annoyingly. He put the car in gear and accelerated, the fan belt screeching as it slipped on the fly wheel. In a moment of poor judgment, Leonard had loaned Christopher five hundred dollars to fix up the car and take care of the registration. Christopher had put the money to personal use and gone on a five day speed binge with Screwie. Christopher bore the fresh bruising around his right eye and jaw from the beating Leonard had provided to the prodigal flunky. The only reason Christopher was still alive was the information he had brought Leonard.
During the course of the binge, Screwie had introduced Christopher to a guy he said he had met in Folsom. Screwie was not always truthful about his past. According to Screwie, Alfred Schmidt was well connected with the Aryan Brotherhood in the joint and with associates on the outside. He was doing time for armed robbery and second degree murder. He had killed a ne’er-do-well biker known as Fat Mike in a bar in Riverside, and as an afterthought he took the cash from the safe. He had been an enforcer for the AB while doing his time. He was a large man whose muscular body was covered with very impressive jail tattoos. Christopher had accepted the story at face value.
Alfred had told Christopher he had heard of Leonard and asked to be introduced. He told Christopher he could use some work. His girlfriend, Donna Bosch, might be able to do some courier work if need be. Christopher told Alfred he would mention it to Leonard and get back to him.
When Christopher came down from his binge, he went with hat in hand to Leonard to ask forgiveness. He was met with a volley of blows to the face and torso. Leonard would have killed him outright, but relented in order to find out what Christopher had been up to in his absence. Being familiar with the talkative nature of speed freaks, he wanted to find out who Christopher had been with and talked to for the past five days. Christopher recounted his introduction to Alfred through Screwie and their subsequent conversation. Christopher’s story confirmed Leonard’s worse concerns.
Prior to his commitment to Chino, the Court had sent Leonard to a ninety day evaluation at an adjoining facility. By chance, he had briefly met Alfred, who was undergoing similar evaluation prior to commitment for a number of drug related charges. Murder and armed robbery were not among those charges. Alfred stood out. He had remembered Alfred being very large and relatively bright, and not forgettable. He did have some very impressive tattoos, but he did not receive them in the joint. Leonard had overheard Alfred explaining to a prison counselor he had the tattoos done by a professional tattoo artist on the outside when he learned he was looking at hard time. He did not want to end up someone’s girlfriend or the victim of a gang. He had also heard Alfred tell the counselor he would be willing to work with any agency as a snitch. Leonard had Christopher set up a meeting with Alfred at a small bar on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach. The bar was a typical beach sports pub with windows that opened onto the sidewalk. Alfred had been instructed to sit by the open window. Leonard had Christopher drive him by in order to look at Alfred and confirm he was who he thought. Leonard recognized Alfred immediately.
Leonard had planned to get rid of Alfred and his girlfriend. Christopher and Screwie could no longer be trusted and would have to be dealt with similarly. But things had not gone as planned when Screwie was arrested. Leonard was now in the process of tidying up the loose ends.
“I guess I’m just a fuck up, Leonard,” said Christopher as he maneuvered through the parking lot. “First Alfred and now this Lester kid. I’m sure having a bad run of luck, huh?”
“It’s OK, Christopher,” replied Leonard in a soothing voice. “Just get us up to the Moonglow without any more problems.”
The Buick idled at the exit of the parking lot while incoming traffic streamed in. They waited for the motor cop to stop traffic to allow them to leave.
Louis heard the Buick before he saw it. The fan belt squealed in chorus with the brakes as it slowed to a stop at the exit. The front tires were bald and it was missing its front license plate. Blue grey smoke fumed out of the broken muffler.
First contact of the day, he thought, as he stopped traffic and motioned the driver of the Buick forward. He officiously pointed at the driver and snapped his arm to the curb line indicating to the driver to pull over.
Louis approached the car and was met with the nervous smile of Christopher.
“What’s the problem, officer? We were just dropping off our daughters for the concert,” said Christopher.
The car’s a piece a shit and too much volunteered information, thought Louis. Something is definitely up here.
“Put the car in park and turn off the engine,” ordered Louis.
“Sure, officer,” said Christopher, complying. “Have we done something wrong?”
“Step out of the car, sir,” said Louis. He put the microphone of his handi-talkie to his mouth. “435 Mary, I need a 28 and 29 on California 1-Charlie-Alpha-Ocean-3-1-4. Start a cover unit, non-urgent, to the north exit of the stadium.”
The dispatcher acknowledged his request for a registration and warrant check on the vehicle and asked for a cover unit to assist Louis on the stop. 335 Mary, another motor officer indicated he was en route to Louis’ location.
Louis turned back to Christopher. “May I see your driver license, sir?” he asked.
“I would give it to you if someone hadn’t stole my wallet,” replied Christopher, looking to Leonard for assistance.
“I guess that means we are going to play ‘what’s my name?’ then?” said Louis.
“No, no, officer, I want to cooperate. Just tell me what’s the matter,” answered Christopher, a little too anxious.
“Well, let’s start with the car. The registration tab is two years old, you’re missing the front plate, it’s smoking like an old factory, the tires are so bald it looks like they’re made out of steel and, judging from the sound, the brakes are made out of a chalk board. So, mon ami, the car gets towed,” rattled off Louis matter of factly.
“435 Mary, clear to copy?” inquired the dispatcher.
“Affirmative,” responded Louis, removing his notepad preparing to write.
“No warrants on California 1-Charlie-Alpha-Ocean-3-1-4. DMV shows a change of ownership to Christopher Swank, September of last year, but no current registration. Also shows eight outstanding parking cites for expired registration. Do you want an 11-85 to your location?” inquired the dispatcher.
“That’s affirmative, start a tow this way,” responded Louis.
“I’m Christopher Swank, officer. You’re not really going to tow my ride are you? How’m I going to pick up our daughters?” He could not see Leonard through the glare of the windshield, but was more afraid of him than of the officer right now. Leonard did not like to be inconvenienced.
“Yes, I really am,” said Louis. Just then motor officer Billy Nyquist arrived to assist Louis.
“What have you got?” asked Bill, surveying the situation still astride his motorcycle.
“A Buick piece of shit special with eight outstanding cites for the impound lot and one very nervous driver,” said Louis. “No warrants on the guy, but he’s as jumpy as a bullfrog in the spring time. Keep an eye on the other one while I write him up.”
Bill nodded and turned his attention to Leonard, still in the passenger seat, as Louis retrieved his ticket book from his bike’s saddle bag.
Leonard was having a difficult time remaining composed. That idiot Christopher had turned out to be a real piece of work. First Alfred Schmidt, then Lester, now this. He took a deep breath and got out of the car.
“Excuse me, officer,” he said to Billy.
Billy put the kick stand of his bike down and got off. He walked to Leonard, casually unsnapping the holster of his Glock 9MM.
“Yes, sir, what can I do for you?”
“I’d kinda like to know what’s going on,” said Leonard, as innocently as possible.
“Well, sir, your friend’s car is a moving violation with a number of parking cites. I’m afraid Officer Batiste is going to have to impound it and write your friend a citation for a number of violations. As soon as he’s done, I’m sure you can be on your way,” explained Billy, all the while sizing up Leonard.
“See, Christopher, I told you we should have taken my car. Now we’re going to have to take a cab home. I hope you brought some cash,” said Leonard as amicably as possible.
“Sorry, Leonard, I’ll take care of it,” replied Christopher sheepishly.
You bet you will you little fuck” thought Leonard. Leonard turned to Billy Nyquist. “I noticed the tape on your badges, are you part of special detail?”
“No, sir. One of our officers was murdered last night. We wear the black tape as a sign of respect,” answered Bill somberly.
“Oh, I heard about that. I’m very sorry. You caught who did it, didn’t you?” said Leonard in mock sympathy.
“Thank you. No, we haven’t caught him yet, but we will,” said Bill.
Fat chance” thought Leonard. You pigs couldn’t find your ass with both hands.
Louis finished the citation without further conversation. He advised Christopher of the charges and the date of his court appearance.
“I’ll make sure he’s there,” volunteered Leonard. Christopher did not like the sound of his voice, the recent beating too fresh in his mind.
“You’re free to go,” said Louis, handing Christopher his copy of the citation.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, officer,” said Christopher wishing the motor cops would arrest him so he would not be alone with Leonard.
“No problem at all, sir,” replied Louis.
“C’mon, Christopher, let’s go find a cab,” said Leonard, walking to Christopher and putting his arm around his shoulder. Louis and Billy watched as the two walked toward Friars Road, the main thoroughfare which ran adjacent to the stadium. The two were lucky to flag down a cab almost immediately.
“Did it seem like ol’ Leonard was a mite pissed off at Christopher?” asked Billy rhetorically.
“Judging from the shiner on Christopher’s eye, I’d venture to say so. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with another one,” said Louis, pulling his clipboard and an impound report from his saddlebag.
Josef Meshkaty was driving his independent cab eastbound on Friars Road passing the stadium when he saw the two men hail him from the curb. He pulled over to pick up the fare. As the rear passenger door opened, the larger of the two hurled the smaller one in. He then jumped in beside him, grabbing the smaller man in a headlock, punching him in the face three times with his fist.
“Hey, hey, hey. Not in my cab. You get out. Right now,” ordered Josef.
“Listen Habib, unless you want some of this, you’ll make this a quick trip to Balboa Avenue and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard,” shouted Leonard releasing Christopher, grabbing Josef’s hair, jerking his head back.
“OK, OK. No problem. Don’t hurt me, I have four children,” pleaded Josef.
“Drive, raghead, now,” snarled Leonard, tossing fifty dollars in the front seat. “And don’t touch that mic. Got it?”
“Yes, sir, anything you say,” replied Josef, pushing down the gas pedal and speeding away.
Leonard returned to the dazed Christopher and grabbed his throat in his powerful hand. “This is the end of our little work arrangement, Christopher. You are a fuck up and I don’t need this aggravation.” Leonard released his neck and smashed Christopher’s already bloody face against the car door several times before letting go of the unconscious man.
Josef drove with his eyes straight forward.
As a part of the impound report, Louis had to conduct an inventory of the Buick’s interior. He was almost finished when he looked up at the rear view mirror.
“Mon dieu!” he gasped.
Hanging from the mirror was something he had not seen since he had left Louisiana. He recognized it immediately and a flood of memories washed over him. The terrible stories of Voodoo his mother told him to make him behave. The small pouch his grandmother had given him to ward of the spirits of the dead who haunted the Bayou. A Mojo.
But this was unlike any Mojo he had ever seen. Wrapped tightly and protruding from the top of the bag was the dried foot of a chicken. Even more unusual, the talons of the foot were covered with dry blood.
Did you enjoy this chapter of Steve Burns’ book? Subscribe to The Dove and the Cockerel and get an email every time a new chapter in this series is posted!