Continued from Chapter 15.
“Wake up, Joe! Goddammit! You’re drunk again!” the voice shrieked at him, fingernails digging into his shoulders as he was shaken awake. He slowly opened his eyes to the enraged face of Francine. “You fucking drunk, where’s Joey! I can’t leave you alone for two hours.”
He bolted upright on the leather couch in his living room. Oh no, not again, he thought, his brain unable to make his mouth work. “Outside, hurry! In the back!” he was screaming, but no sound came. He lurched off the couch, crashing through the glass coffee table, slicing his arm, but feeling no pain. His blood spilled on the orange shag carpet which had the consistency and stability of Jello.
“Hurry, hurry, Francine! Not this time, we can save him,” he soundlessly implored her. No voice came from her mouth, her face contorted with jeering hatred. He slogged his way across the floor to the sliding glass patio door. He could not find the handle and began pounding on it. He could see the open gate just beyond which led to the swimming pool, the plastic Hot Wheels tricycle bobbing up and down at the edge. Suddenly he was in the pool, it was miles across. At the far side stood Joey, waving, beckoning him.
I’ve made it this time, he thought. “I’m coming Joey!” But still no sound from his mouth.
He pumped his legs hard, trying to propel himself through the shallow water. It was taking too long. Joey began to turn away. “NO JOEY! COME BACK!”
And then the form appeared at his feet. It looked like a pile of brightly colored rags or a maybe large striped beach towel submerged just out of reach. He reached down, but the pile was too far below. He took a deep breath and stuck his head under the water, but it was not cool, it was warm and moist, almost like a fog. The shape became smaller and he had trouble grasping it. So heavy for such a small thing. He pulled it close to him, pushing to the surface, gasping for air, the heavy form in his arms. He began pulling back the layers of wet cloth. I have to hurry, he’s in here. I’ve got to find him.
Then he clutched the small hand, feeling down the arm to the torso and neck. Hurry dammit. And finally his hands found the small head, the dark wet hair covering the face. He brushed the matted bangs back from the face. Again he was too late. The lifeless eyes of Joey stared back at him. “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!…”
Joe Amadiana woke with a start and a small yelp. He was dripping with perspiration, even though the car window was open and the cold wind from the ocean had begun to blow. He took two deep breaths and oriented himself. He looked to his left and saw the inquisitive face of Colin Fahey staring at him.
“Did you have a nice nap?” asked Colin, sarcastically.
“Shit, I must have dozed off. Long night,” croaked Joe, smiling weakly, still gathering his thoughts.
“Well, wake up. We’re almost to County. You want some Coffee?” said Colin.
“I’m already sweating caffeine. I’ll be okay. Give me a minute,” replied Joe, wishing for a more potent beverage. His mouth was dry and he began working his lips and tongue to make saliva.
“Carl and E went 10-97 at County about fifteen minutes ago. I guess they had quite an incident down there a while ago. The watch commander will get us up to speed. Oh, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, guess who’s involved? Charlie Stevenson,” said Colin.
“Oh Christ, what has that fat prick got to do with this?” asked Joe.
Stevenson had caught Joe embellishing certain facts in a robbery homicide case several years before. The scandal resulted in an eventual appeal to State Supreme Court, which ruled while Detective Amadiana had “puffed” during testimony, the result was harmless error and the conviction had been upheld. Nevertheless, Joe’s credibility had been damaged. Of course Joe blamed Stevenson, who had done nothing more than give Joe the rope to hang himself. Joe did not relish meeting with Stevenson.
“Apparently, he’s on our side this time,” replied Colin.
“What, he’s a prosecutor?” snorted Joe, the image of the avowed public defender causing both to chuckle.
“I don’t know what his involvement is. Try to be a little civil.” said Colin, pulling the unmarked car into a red zone adjacent to County Jail.
As they got out of the car, the first clouds of the approaching storm made landfall to the west, casting a shadow over the sun. Colin looked west to the ridge of Point Loma as the grey and white clouds bustled hurriedly down the coastline. The clouds darkened the Point, causing it to lose the detail of trees and buildings. It appeared to be a large wall built to hold back the trespassing storm from the now calm harbor.
“Rain,” said Colin matter of factly.
“Big fuckin’ rain,” said Joe in agreement as they entered the south entrance of the Jail.
After locking up their weapons and passing through the sally port, Joe and Colin were met by Lieutenant Deacon Smith, the watch commander. Smith had worked with the San Diego Police Department until the great migration of 1979, when, in a dispute over low pay, a significant number of veteran officers left the Department and were readily hired by the County Sheriff. Vowing not to be blackmailed by city employees, the Mayor – now Governor – had not budged during salary negotiations, insisting on keeping the officers of the second largest city in California number twenty-seven in pay.
During the failed negotiations, Smith had the notoriety of issuing the Mayor a speeding ticket late one night in the area of Balboa Park. The previous Chief had been gracious enough to void the ticket for the Mayor. Fortunately, neither the Chief nor the Mayor believed any officer was bright enough to use the multi-million dollar computer system which had been installed for, among other services, statistical evaluation and record keeping. Smith had tracked the ticket daily and when it turned up voided – which required the Chief’s signature – he dropped a dime to the local news stations. The resulting scandal began an investigation which uncovered the practice of dismissing tickets by the Chief for many influential citizens of San Diego.
Unfortunately, nothing came from the investigation, other than momentary embarrassment for the Chief and Mayor. The officers of Northern Division, however, exacted their revenge on the Mayor for the next several months. Late at night, headlights out, a police unit would cruise past the Mayor’s condominium, broadcasting a simple message over the public address system: “Didja pay your ticket, Pete?”
Smith’s distinction preceded him to Sheriff Duffy, who cared for neither city official. He was welcomed with open arms and rose quickly in the ranks. Now in his final years, he had the choice assignment of day-shift watch commander at County Jail.
“Hey Joe….Colin.” said Smith, greeting them, ushering them toward his office. He knew Joe from his patrol days in the Department. He knew Colin only by reputation. “Your partners are already here. I sent them up to Muni Court. We’re using a jury room to interview your informant. Seems he freaks out if we try to bring him down here. I’ll call and tell them you’re here.”
“So what have you got?” asked Colin.
“Have a seat and I’ll ‘splain,” said the Lieutenant. “Coffee?”
“Yeah sure, why not,” said Joe, reaching for the pot and a Styrofoam cup from the Lieutenant’s side table. Colin declined the offer.
“Ironically, Pete Castillo booked this guy in last night. Clarence Edward Taylor, Jr.” began Smith looking over the booking log. “DUI, possession of coke and sales. He’s a law student at the University and a class-A dickhead. He spends a couple of hours in the rubber room to cool down and then off to felony holding. Generally, he would not be arraigned until tomorrow, but Charlie Stevenson, you know him, Joe, the P.D.?” said Deacon with a sly smile.
Joe rolled his eyes and nodded his head in acknowledgement.
“Anyway,” Smith continued, “Stevenson pulls some strings and gets his arraignment set for today. He goes up on the ten o’clock calendar. He talks to Stevenson’s assistant, who knows Taylor and has arranged for an O.R.”
Smith paused to sign some papers that a clerk had brought in. He continued.
“Everything is all set, but Taylor goes sideways in Judge Nicholas’ court. Tears this assistant’s clothes off, screaming he’s not going back to jail. Seems he got hooked up with a guy in the tank who’s talking about offing some snitches and maybe killing a cop. That’s not all clear.”
“Who was this guy?” interrupted Colin.
“His name is Douglas Peters. He was popped last night on a $5000 warrant for receiving. Peters tells Taylor about these friends of his who are supposed to be involved with killing some snitches. The friends are supposed to come and bail him out. Stevenson finds out and notifies us about the guy even before he talks to the D.A. Go figure.”
“Do you still have him?” Colin interrupted again.
Smith shot him a look that said “Shut up,” then added, “Good thing you’re laying off the coffee. Yes, we’ve got him. In fact, his friends did try to bail him out. Except they got hinky and split. Knocked over some little kid in the lobby and split his head open, too. We got some pretty good videos of the two, Black dude, white chick. I gave a copy of the video to your partners,” anticipating Colin’s next question. “I realize it’s not much, but hey we ain’t big city detectives like you guys,” he concluded with a wink at Joe.
“How’s the kid?” Joe asked, much to the surprise of Colin.
“He’s going to be all right,” said the Lieutenant. “We got him up to the hospital. Just a small laceration. You know head wounds, they bleed a lot worse than they look.”
“What’s this Peters like?” asked Joe.
“I dunno. He’s a tweaker and been crashed out all day. He’s in isolation right now.”
“Well, partner,” said Joe, “let’s see what Carl and E have.”
“Right this way gentleman,” said the Lieutenant, motioning Colin and Joe to the corridor leading to the court holding elevator.
Carl Jessop was sleeping in a chair outside the jury room, snoring softly, as Colin and Joe walked down the hallway. Deputy Marshall Carole sat across him.
“He sat down and went out like that,” said Deputy Carole, with a snap of her fingers. Carl stirred, but continued to sleep, his large form seeking a more comfortable position. Colin and Joe exchanged glances.
“I’m not waking him up,” said Colin resolutely.
“Chicken,” whispered Joe.
“Yeah, and damn proud of it,” retorted Colin quietly.
Joe took a deep breath and knelt beside Carl. “Hey, big fella…” said Joe quietly, gently shaking Carl’s shoulder.
Joe had picked his position strategically, knowing full well the manner in which Carl woke up when disturbed. The unfortunate deputy had no time to react as Carl lunged out of the chair, pinning her to wall. Colin and Joe each quickly grabbed one of Carl’s arms.
“Whoa, Carl. It’s us, the good guys,” said Joe in a reassuring voice. Carl blinked his eyes, looking at Joe and Colin in turn.
“Hi, guys.” said Carl.
“Carl, put the nice deputy down.” said Joe, nodding to Deputy Carole, still firmly planted against the wall.
Carl looked at the frightened deputy, suddenly noticing her and what he had done. “I’m sorry,” he said sheepishly, releasing her from his hold.
“That’s okay,” she replied, visibly shaken. Then turning to Joe, “You could have warned me.”
“Yeah, I guess I could have, but what fun would that’ve been,” said Joe.
“There’s enough of you now, I think I’ll find somewhere safer,” she said, turning and walking away as she readjusted her bullet proof vest under her uniform. “Assholes,” she muttered as she disappeared into the courtroom.
“No sense of humor,” said Joe, looking at the yawning Carl.
“How did it go with Theresa?” asked Colin, after Carl had a chance to wake up.
Carl shook his head. “Bad, real bad. The poor little thing just fell apart. She really loves her dad,” he paused. “We left Maxine with her. She’s going to stay with Theresa today. I think they’ll go to the doctor later and get something to settle her down. I don’t mind saying I hate that part of the job.”
“How you holding up, big fella?” asked Joe, in another surprising bit of compassion.
“Tired, for one.” replied Carl. “I don’t think it’s hit me the whole way yet. Maybe when I get home I can let down. I really want to see my kids. Tell ’em I love ’em. I dunno,” suddenly at a loss for words. “God, I’m going to miss that son of a bitch.”
They were quiet for a moment, reflecting on their own feelings. Colin wanted to call Claire and tell her he loved her.
“Where’s E?” asked Joe, breaking the reverie.
“She’s in there,” answered Carl, motioning toward the door. “Our informant is major league freaked out. I think I scared him a little. E is in there with Edwards and Phelps from the D.A.’s office.”
“Ugh,” said Joe, shivering, “That nasty looking snake bite. I thought she was with the child abuse unit. What’s she doing here?”
“Guess the D.A. transferred her after she cost the County a couple mil on the crippled guy’s trial. And the best part, your ol’ buddy Stevenson is here too,” said Carl, flashing a big grin. “I don’t think the guy has much, but we’re supposed to wait out here.”
As if on cue, the jury room door opened and Shelley, Edwards, Phelps and Charlie filed out. Joe and Colin could see the despondent Clarence Edward Taylor, Jr. sitting at the far end of the room.
“Hey guys,” said Shelley, “Glad to see you could make it. Joe, Colin, you know Jake Edwards and Marney Phelps. This is Charlie Stevenson, he represents the informant, Mr. Taylor. Mr. Stevenson, Detectives Colin Fahey and Joe Amadiana.”
“Mr. Stevenson,” said Colin, extending his had to shake Charlie’s.
“Pleased to meet you Detective,” replied Charlie, then turning to Joe. “I believe we have already met.”
“Yeah, I vaguely remember you from someplace,” said Joe, refusing to take the offered hand.
Charlie withdrew his hand. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, do we have a deal?”
Attention was turned to Shelley. “If Taylor’s info pans out, sure. But if not…”
“…No deal,” interjected Jake Edwards, finishing where Shelley trailed off.
“Fair enough.” said Charlie. “Now, about Mr. Taylor’s release. Judge Nicholas has approved an O.R. and I will be allowed to take Mr. Taylor out the front door.”
“Just make sure he is available,” hissed Marney Phelps.
“Yes, Marney, I’ll make sure he doesn’t leave town. Thank you folks. Now if you will excuse me, I must go protect the rights of those similarly oppressed by this tyrannical and oppressive system.”
With that, Charlie returned to the jury room to collect Clarence Taylor.
“Nice guy,” said Shelley.
“Yeah, a real gem,” replied Joe.
“Well, we’ll let you guys do your job,” said Jake.
“Good luck, and keep us posted,” added Marney Phelps as they turned to leave.
“Frau Phelps is a real coyote date,” said Joe, when they were out of ear shot.
“What’s that?” asked Shelley.
“Well E, you know how a coyote will chew it’s leg off if it’s caught in a trap?” queried Joe.
“Yeah, I guess I’ve heard that somewhere,” said Shelley, taking the bait.
“A coyote date is when you take someone home,” continued Joe, “and in the morning when you wake up and they’re still asleep on your arm, they are so ugly that you’d chew your arm off to get away rather than wake them up.”
“Ah jeez, Joe.” said Shelley, feigning disgust and adding “But she is at that.”
There was a moment of silence, while Shelley’s last observation sunk in on the others.
“Yeah, right,” said Joe, uncomfortably, realizing he might know more about Shelley than he cared to.
“So, anyway, E, what have you got?” said Colin, quickly changing the subject.
“The informant, if you can really call him that, got popped last night for DUI and some coke. His name is Clarence Edward Taylor, Jr. Pete Castillo was the arresting officer. He gets belligerent with the deputies at booking and ends up in the rubber room for a couple of hours. He’s a cherry, rich kid law student, so being put in the felony tank with the real thing really unnerved him.”
“He’s tells me he is trying to be as anonymous as possible when this other guy takes a liking to him. Not a sex thing, just a tweaker being chatty. Clarence tells me the guy is psycho and takes on some big Samoan and backs the guy down. The tweaker goes by the name of ‘Screwie.’ Real name Douglas Peters. He’s been picked up on a warrant in O.B. and is waiting for some friends to bail him out.”
“Peters finds out Taylor is being held for sales and offers to hook him up with these friends. According to Peters they are into manufacturing crystal in North County. Peters was supposed to go with the friends to take care of a couple of people they think are snitches. Only Peters gets arrested before they pick him up.”
“Peters didn’t tell Taylor about killing a cop, but he seemed very happy to hear about Pete being murdered,” said Shelley to emphasize this was not a confession regarding Pete’s murder. “But a salt-and-pepper team came to bail out Peters, and then split in a real hurry,” she added. “I don’t know if you heard about the little kid who got hurt.”
“Yeah, we heard,” interjected Joe. “He’s going to be okay.”
“Good, I saw the video, it looked awful.”
“How are the pictures of the two in the video?” asked Colin.
“Very good,” said Carl. “The black dude is real big and buffed out. Obviously been throwin’ around a lot of iron. Maybe been in the joint. The girl that was with him was tall and has short blonde hair. She was wearing a leather jacket and denims.”
“So what you’re saying,” interrupted Joe, “is just maybe old Calvin Brown did see the ‘Scarecrow’ last night and it wasn’t just the D.T.’s.” He gave them all the “I told you so” look.
“Looks like you’re right again, partner,” said Colin, acknowledging that for all his faults, Joe was a good detective. He knew how to listen – The most valuable tool of an investigator.
“Well, who wants to interview this Peters character?” asked Joe, throwing out the option to the group.
“I don’t think I’m up to an interrogation right now,” said Carl.
“Joe, that’s more yours and Colin’s forte,” said E. “If you don’t mind, Carl and I can take the video to videographics and see if George Leadford can get us a couple of good I.D. photos of the two who came to bail out Peters.”
“I’m sure George will be able to get you a shot good enough to tell if the girl’s a natural blonde,” chuckled Joe. George Leadford had bought the first VCR, big screen television and video recorder when they hit the market. A big roly-poly teddy bear, George parlayed his hobby of showing porno films at parties into his own little division within the Department. He and an assistant did all the training films for the Department, Crime Stoppers videos and on occasion, videotaped crime scenes.
“Come on, Carl, let’s see if we can find Calvin Brown before we head back,” said Shelley, showing no sign of fatigue.
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” said Carl, looking at his watch, “This time of day, he’ll be in Detox or at the Mission.”
It was almost three o’clock in the afternoon. Officer Peter Ernesto Castillo had been murdered only twelve hours before. The team split up to deal with equally important tasks. As they walked to the hall toward the elevator, Colin’s pager began to beep.
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