Continued from Chapter 18.
Colin searched the parking lot at Central for a space close to the building. The rain had not let up during their trip back from County Jail. Being true Southern Californians, neither he nor Joe carried an umbrella, and they wished to limit any further soaking while dashing back into the building.
“You’re the young hip guy,” said Joe, “What bar on Laurel do you think Peters was talking about?”
“There is only one I know of on Laurel,” replied Colin, locating a reasonably close spot and pulling into to park. “It’s on Kettner, right under the flight path. I think it was just renamed “Thrasher’s.” It’s one of those black hair, black lipstick, black clothes and black boots places. It features a lot of local talent.”
“That is right under the flight path. You can count freckles on the pilot’s face. How can they hear anything?” asked Joe.
Colin gave Joe a look which said “C’mon, are you kidding?”
“Oh,” said Joe, “That kind of local talent. Loud, huh?”
“Extremely,” said Colin.
They leaped from the unmarked car and dashed the few feet to the underground entrance of the station. Colin made a mental note to retrieve his raincoat from his car later. The station was quiet in the early evening, the day shift of investigators and administrators having already gone home for the day. They caught an elevator and took the brief ride up to the homicide offices.
The offices were empty, but Colin and Joe heard voices coming from the conference room. They followed the sound and found Carl, Shelley, Morgan and Raines reviewing files spread over the conference table.
“Colin-san, welcome,” said Morgan as the two entered the room.
“What have you guys got?” Colin said as he sat down next to Morgan. Joe slumped down in a chair at the end of the room. As much as he liked the Chief, he thought he should be fired for making the station a smoke-free zone. His stomach cramps had settled down temporarily, but now that the exhilaration of questioning Douglas Peters was spent, he realized that he was fading. A snooze would really be great, but he dared not; not without his medication. He still feared the recurrence of the dream which had shaken him so badly earlier.
“Christ, it’s going to be a long night,” Joe thought out loud, rubbing his eyes hard.
“You all have done an excellent job…so far.” said Raines. “The ARJIS search has given us some excellent direction. We still, however, have a long way to go. Morgan, you give us the update.”
“Your buddy, Douglas Peters, has quite a history with us,” began Morgan. “Fifteen arrests since he turned eighteen, mostly for drug possession and theft charges, but a couple for battery and one for assault with a deadly weapon. No convictions on any of those three.”
“Typical,” snorted Joe.
“Generally, I’d say the old justice system was falling down on the job again, but in the Douglas, aka Screwie, case, prosecution did not follow through because he got his ass kicked worse than the victim, and the victims were satisfied with the result – hospitalization in all three cases.”
The group of detectives enjoyed a good laugh at that.
“What was the weapon in the ADW?” asked Colin.
“Car,” said Morgan, looking at the file. “It appears Screwie decided to try and run over Fat Ray, you remember him, the late sergeant at arms of the local Hells Angels. Anyway, Screwie missed and Fat Ray pulled him out of the window as he sped by; broke his collar bone, Screwie’s that is.”
“Yeah, his packaging is coming a little unraveled,” observed Joe.
“Anything on this Leonard Jefferson character?” asked Colin.
“He doesn’t show as a companion with Peters on any of his contacts, and Leonard Jefferson gave us several hits, but no round eyes, only black guys,” replied Morgan.
“Hey,” spoke up Carl, “My eyes are round.”
“I know Carl, but do you really want me throw you in with all this white trailer trash?”
As they chuckled, Shelley, who had been working on a computer terminal which had been moved into the conference room, suddenly interrupted them. “Not so fast. One of Peters’ running mates got his car impounded today. The guy’s name is Christopher Swank.”
“Who did the impound?” asked Scott Raines.
“St. Jean Batiste,” replied Shelley. “It was at the stadium.”
“I’ll see if he’s still on shift,” said Carl heading for the door.
“Show Colin and Joe the pictures, E,” said Scott.
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” said Shelley. “George did a great job,” as she passed two photo copies to Colin and Joe.
Colin and Joe examined the grainy gray photocopies, one of a large muscular black man with a shaved head and goatee, an almost indistinguishable scar over his right eye. The other was of a white woman with short blonde hair, wearing Levis and a black leather jacket. She was tall and had a very severe appearance.
“Scarecrow,” said Joe, looking at the photocopy of the woman, more to himself than anyone else in the room.
“This must be Sheila and Tyrone. Peters told us these were the two who were going to bail him out. No last names though. Anything on those names, E?” asked Colin.
“I’m afraid not,” said Shelley.
Carl returned to the conference room. “St. Jean Batiste is still at the stadium. Dispatch is going to have him 10-21 us here,” he said, using the radio code for telephone call. It was only a matter of weeks before any officer worth their weight in salt began to talk half in radio code. Once learned, it was not easily forgotten.
Raines was sifting through his notes. “Oh,” he remarked, “I found a little information on the coin. I am not quite sure where it fits in. The coin is not currency, but it is from Haiti. It is used as a wanga.”
“A wanger?” said Joe.
“No, a wanga. It is an amulet used to contain an evil spirit, what is referred to as a Baka Loa. It is used in voodoo rituals to bring bad happenings on the owner’s enemies. Apparently it is particular to Haitian voodoo. Unfortunately, I do not have much on voodoo in my research books.”
“Do you think it has a tie-in here?” asked Colin.
“As I said, I am not sure it fits in at all, but it is a unique item.”
Scott looked around the room. “Well, have we got any ideas on which way we want to go while we are waiting?” he asked.
“First, Sarge, I’d like to know where the Feds fit in all of this,” said Joe.
“They are not giving us anything. They do not want to compromise an ongoing investigation. The Chief called D.C. today, though, and started rattling some major cages. Maybe we will have something tomorrow,” answered Scott with a shrug.
“Assholes,” said Joe disgustedly.
“Correct,” replied Scott, “But dwelling on it is not going to get us closer to finding Pete’s murderer or murderers. So I am open to suggestions. Anyone?”
“Peters told us Sheila hangs out at the Thrasher over on Laurel and Kettner. Maybe we could check it out tonight,” offered Colin.
Joe shot a glance at Colin. “What do you mean, we?”
“I think we will all go,” said Scott, with authority which did not invite question.
“I’ll come,” offered Morgan.
“You can only last so long on coffee and adrenaline, Morgan,” said Scott.
“Well actually, Sarge,” interjected Colin, “it is kind of a younger crowd. No offense, but Morgan might fit in a little better than Joe, Carl or you.”
That’s a good partner, thought Joe.
“If you are up to it Morgan, I will get O.T. approval from Bach,” said Scott, playing out logistics in his head. “But Joe, Carl and I will be outside for back up.”
Shit, shit, shit, thought Joe.
The telephone that Carl had moved into the conference room rang. Raines answered it.
“Homicide, Raines speaking.” he said. “It’s for you Carl, St. Jean Batiste.”
“Hello, Louis, what up?” said Carl. “Yeah, I’m okay…No, not yet, but we’re starting to get close…Hey listen, did you impound a 1974 Buick Regal today belonging to a guy named Christopher Swank?….A real P.O.S., huh?…Listen, were there any passengers…no shit, Leonard Jefferson. Did you happen to get anything more than his name?…Yeah, is he still there?…Yeah, put him on.” Carl turned to the other detectives, “Jefferson was a passenger in the car. He didn’t talk to him, but Billy Nyquist was there and talked to him. He’s putting him on.”
There was pause, then Carl said, “Hey Billy, keeping dry?…Yeah, I’ll bet you’re in for a wet ride home. Hey, on this impound of St. Jean Batiste, you talked to a Leonard Jefferson, right?…Yeah, you got it?…Ready…Uh-huh…Good…,” said Carl as he wrote rapidly on his notepad. “Outstanding…We think this guy might have some involvement…Did you see where they went after you were through?…A cab east on Friars…What kind, independent Huh?…No, no, y’all have done great…Sure, put him back on.”
Carl paused while Nyquist gave the telephone back to St. Jean Batiste, “What’s that, Louis? I don’t habla Cajun…Sorry, sorry, Creole…A Mojo…Yeah, yeah, I know what a Mojo is, well, sort of…Where was it?…I see…No shit, really…No, no that’s okay, one of us will get it…Well, maybe nothing, but you never know…Good job. Tell Nyquist thanks too…Sure will and you watch your back too. See ya’.”
Everyone in the room had perked up when they heard Carl reference the word “Mojo.” Carl handed his notepad to Shelley, “E, run this info through DMV and see if we can get a little bit more on Leonard Jefferson.”
“Well?” said Scott Raines, becoming impatient.
“Nyquist F.I.’d Leonard Jefferson, he got his CDL and social,” said Carl, referring to California Driver License and Social Security numbers. “St. Jean Batiste also told me they found a Mojo hanging from the rearview mirror.”
“For those of us who have not had the privilege of exploring the culture of the deep South, would you mind enlightening us?” asked Joe.
“From what I know, and that’s not much,” began Carl, “a Mojo is a little leather bag filled with herbs and feathers and bones and other shit that’s supposed to ward off evil spirits.” Joe cocked an eyebrow.
“But the interesting thing is that this one had a chicken foot tied to it.” Shelley stopped typing at the terminal and Colin leaned forward. “He said,” continued Carl, “that the foot had dried blood on it.” The room was silent.
Scott Raines broke the silence. “Where is this Mojo now?”
“It’s still with the Buick,” answered Carl. “I guess it’s real bad luck to mess with someone else’s Mojo. Anyway St. Jean Batiste wasn’t going anywhere near it.”
“I’ll impound it and search the rest of the car,” said Morgan.
“Thanks, Morgan, but you will need to get a warrant first,” said Scott Raines. “I’d rather have you there tonight. Carl, do you mind getting the warrant and handling the search?” more a directive than a request.
“I got it,” responded Carl. “I’ll have Ali Smith and the Flash meet me there to impound everything and get photographs. Call me, though, if you come up with something.”
“We will wait for you,” said Raines, assuring Carl, as he left the conference room to make the necessary arrangements. “Have you got anything yet, E?”
Shelley read from the terminal screen, “Leonard Jefferson has an address on Cable Street in Ocean Beach. He is the registered owner of two cars. The first, a 1992 Volvo sedan, silver with California plates Three-King-Tom-David-Four-Eight-Eight. Second car is a 1989 Dodge Caravan, bronze with California plates Two-Mary-Charles-Victor-Six-Four-Seven.”
“Excellent. Colin, call dispatch and have a unit drive by and look for the cars and see if they can determine if anyone is there.”
“I’m on it,” said Colin, also leaving the room.
“If you don’t mind terribly, Scott, I’m going to slip out and have smoke while we wait,” said Joe.
“Fine Joe,” said Scott Raines, as Joe stood to leave. “Good work today, Joe.”
“Thanks, it’s just my job,” said Joe, offhanded. “I’ll be back in ten.”
As he walked down the hall he thought to himself how police work never ceased to amaze him. Part luck, part skill. He pushed the down button of the elevator and the door opened. He began his descent to the garage.
A little over twelve hours ago they had almost nothing. If it had not been for that kid freaking out in the courtroom they might still be stymied. But they were able to put a little piece here and a little piece there and the picture was starting to come together. They had a way to go before it was wrapped up and that could be any minute now.
He reached the garage and walked to edge of the overhang. He lit up a Camel and took a long drag, holding the smoke until he got the head rush from the oxygen deprivation. The rain had let up somewhat and was now no more than a heavy drizzle. The heavy clouds created a false night. The amber light of street lamps sparkled, reflecting off the wet pavement. Maybe it was the cigarette, but Joe felt relaxed. He was admittedly tired from the long night and day, but he felt relaxed from the satisfaction that they were about to put another deserving soul or two in jail.
Joe’s meditation was broken by footfalls behind him.
“Let’s go, partner,” called Colin, as he walked up to Joe, followed by Morgan and Shelley.
“Is he there?” asked Joe.
“No,” said Colin, “The house checked negative for cars and no one’s there. We got a vice unit to sit on it in an unmarked car. Here,” said Colin, tossing Joe a handi-talkie. “Sarge said to meet up at Western at eight o’clock if we haven’t heard anything before that.”
“OK, I’m going to get cleaned up and something to eat,” said Joe.
Colin looked Joe in the eye. The message was clear.
“Don’t worry,” said Joe, his voice sincere.
“See you at eight,” said Colin, as he turned and dashed to his car. “See you guys at eight,” he hollered over his shoulder to Morgan and Shelley, who were already sprinting to their cars.
Colin fumbled with the wet keys, putting them in the ignition. He started the Cougar and put it in reverse. Tom Waits was still on the stereo, mournfully singing the lyrics of On the Nickel.
“Sorry, Tom,” said Colin, out loud, “I don’t need you to bring me down right now.” He pushed the eject button and pulled the cassette from the player. He fumbled through the glove compartment and found the tape he was looking for. He was fast forwarding the tape as he got on I-5 North in the thinning traffic. Finding the song he was looking for, he pushed play and turned up the volume. The Black Crows launched into a raucous cover of Hard to Handle. Cris Robinson wailed out the not-so-subtle innuendo. The song reminded him of Pete Castillo. Good memories. He would always see Pete, half a bottle of Cuervo Gold in one hand, attempting the Mexican version of Elvis, but looking more like Zorba the Greek. Colin laughed quietly to himself and felt the tears start to roll down his cheeks. Colin joined the chorus as he accelerated the cougar north. “Cuz, Mama, I’m too hard to handle, yes I am now!”
The storm wind had dropped off. To the West, San Diego Bay was a sheet of polished ebony reflecting the lights of Point Loma in the distance.
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