Continued from Chapter 23.
Morgan and Shelley sat with Colin in his car. He had parked about two blocks from Thrashers and they now awaited the arrival of Raines and Joe before entering the bar. Outside, they could see the crowd of black-haired, white-skinned patrons waiting to gain entrance. Intermixed with the predominantly gothic crowd were a number of holdover grungers, dressed in tattered Levis, long-sleeve t-shirts under flannel shirts and black high-top sneakers.
“Generation X,” snorted Morgan. “The mods were dressing like that back in the sixties, not that I have any personal recollections,” he added with a smile.
“What I like is the grunge look,” said Colin. “Surfers have been dressing like that for years. What used to cost about twelve dollars now runs you about a hundred and fifty bucks.”
“Yeah, but you aren’t sporting any tattoos like those guys,” interjected Shelley.”
“No, I’m not. That’s another cost I forgot about. Figure about five hundred to a thousand dollars in cartoons alone. Of course you don’t exactly grow out of tattoos.”
“Those will look awfully nifty in ten years when they go for a job interview,” replied Morgan.
“Forget the job interview. In forty years they’ll just be one big blurry blue mass. Imagine your honey naked,” added Shelley.
Morgan and Colin shivered at the thought.
“Unit 21-23 SAM. Is 21-23 Fahey on the air?” the handi-talkie squawked. It was the radio-distorted voice of Scott Raines.
Colin responded into his handi-talkie, “Unit 21-23 Fahey, we’re parked about two blocks north of the location. Are you in position?”
“Unit 21-23 SAM, that is affirmative. One block south on east side of street. You are clear to proceed.”
“Unit 21-23 Fahey, 10-4,” said Colin, finishing the conversation. “Well, let’s do it,” he said turning to Morgan and Shelley. Morgan zipped up his bomber jacket as he got out of the car, carefully concealing the 9 mm Glock on his hip. He put on his gold-framed wire glasses and flashed a buck toothed grin at Colin, completing the look of the World War II Japanese stereotype.
“No prisoners, round eye,” said Morgan, in an even worse imitation of Tojo.
Shelley shook her head. She had worked, and partied, around Morgan and Colin before. It was generally one bad pun or sick joke after another, each one trying to outdo the other. They had both been pretty sedate tonight, the shadow of Pete’s murder hanging heavily over both.
As the youngest of the three, Shelley probably fit into the Thrasher crowd best. She wore a Levi jacket over the ankle length gingham peasant dress. Under the dress, she wore a dark turtle neck, black leggings and calf-high beige Doc Martins. Her .38 police special was secreted in a special pocket on the inside of her jacket. Her backpack contained the rest of her gear, handcuffs, radio, badge and a can of mace. The mace had never been used. Mace rarely worked on the bad guy, but usually got all over the officer, for whom it worked twice as well.
As they approached the entrance to Thrashers, Shelley realized Morgan and Colin looked a little too old for the establishment. In fact, they looked like a couple of vice cops coming to shake down the place. Thinking quickly, Shelley slipped one arm around Morgan’s waist and the other through Colin’s arm. They both looked at her.
“You look like vice,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Hey, hey,” said Colin, taking mock offense. “Vice never dress this well.”
“They shop at Sears, never at such upscale places as K-Mart, ol’ Colin’s clothier of choice,” snickered Morgan.
They smiled at the doorman as they took their place in line. A rather beefy fellow with a flat top, nose ring and yellow jacket emblazoned with “STAFF” across the back, the doorman meticulously examined every identification card presented to him. When they reached the front of the line, Shelley presented her driver license. The doorman checked the date of birth, compared her to the picture on the card and moved it back and forth under a flash light looking for any telltale alterations. Satisfied, he handed it back to Shelley. She gave him three dollars for the cover and he stamped her hand with a rubber stamp containing ink visible only under an ultraviolet light. Morgan handed his driver license to the doorman who gave it a cursory examination before returning it to him. Colin held out his driver license. The doorman looked him in the eye and smiled.
“Right, Pops. I think I’ll take a chance on you being 21. Probably even 51. You can go. Enjoy the show.” He laughed as Colin turned crimson. Not quite done and full of his own wit, the doorman added “Oh, by the way, we use microwave ovens in there.”
“So?” said Colin, having had his fill of this asshole.
“State law says I gotta warn you. You know, in case you got a pacemaker,” he burst into uncontrolled laughter, slapping his knee.
Colin turned to enter the building. Morgan and Shelley looked as though they would burst. He gave them both a look that told them their next utterance had better be very carefully worded. They said nothing as Colin continued on in.
Morgan could not resist, “He is right, it is a state requirement.”
With that, Shelley let go with a snort. “Yeah…Pops.”
“Assholes,” Colin muttered, but he smiled to himself.
Scott Raines had chosen a parking spot with a clear view of the front of Thrashers. He focused a pair of binoculars on the front door and watched as Shelley, Morgan and Colin entered.
Joe sat quietly in the passenger seat, his mind a million miles away. It was over, he had nothing left. Tomorrow he would resign from the Department. He could not work the report squad, the shame was too much. Without homicide he had no purpose on the Department. Hell, he would have no purpose in life. Maybe he could get some kind of medical retirement, something stress related. If he was an alcoholic, he could blame the Department. But he was not an alcoholic.
Shit, he was smarter than his whole team. It had to be Colin and Scott. They wanted him out. That was it. They wanted him out. Mr. “I’m sober now” Fahey probably made up some big deal to get Raines on his case. He was trying to show Raines he could axe someone. If Fahey had his head any further up Raines’ ass, Raines would choke. That’s it; Fahey was trying to make sergeant.
The lack of sleep in combination with the “daytime” decongestant was playing havoc with Joe’s ability to concentrate. His thoughts flitted from one subject to the next, all centered around Raines’ ultimatum. Joe’s heart pounded hard in his chest. He felt as though he could barely breath as he shifted from position to position.
“Dammit.” cursed Scott Raines, interrupting Joe’s jumbled train of thought.
“What?” said Joe.
“That panel truck just pulled up and blocked my view of the side door,” said Scott Raines, exasperated.
Joe seized the opportunity to get away from his sergeant. “I’ll go up the street and watch.”
Raines looked at Joe, weighing his options. “OK, just make sure you listen to the radio. At least no one will notice you.”
Joe fairly leapt out of the car and started walking up the block. The cold night air chilled his legs, the damp trousers offering no protection. He turned the corner and walked up a short hill to a small parking lot. He found a place to put his back against a brick wall and sat down with a clear view of the side door of Thrashers across the street. He withdrew a cigarette from his coat pocket, placed it in his mouth and lit it, shielding the flame of his lighter from the light breeze. He inhaled deeply and held it. Again the mild oxygen deprivation induced momentary euphoria. It passed all too soon.
A young couple passed on the sidewalk a few feet away. The girl noticed Joe sitting against the wall. She stopped her companion, fumbled through her purse and walked over to Joe. He eyed her suspiciously.
“Here you go,” she said as she kneeled down and handed him two one dollar bills.
Joe was caught off guard. “Uh…thanks,” he managed.
“Just don’t spend it on alcohol,” she replied. “Peace.” She rejoined her companion and then crossed the street to join the line to the entrance of Thrashers.
Better get used to this, he thought. You’ve found your new career.
Colin was a veteran concertgoer and he valued his hearing. He had come prepared with a set of earplugs, which he now rolled up and inserted into his ears. The plugs would allow him to hear, but would reduce the decibels of the live music which could, in the long run, cause hearing loss.
He was not alone. The lead guitarist of the house band, Lackluster, had also donned similar plugs. The band was made up of a guitarist, bass player, drummer and vocalist. Colin had heard this band before; the instrumentalists were tight and played some very good original pieces. The vocalist was a different story. While he would start off with the rest of the band, he would for no apparent reason drift off into an improvisational vocal which would leave the other members of the band, not to mention the audience, lost. Right now they were performing a song called Numb, which was probably a reference to the effect it had on the listener when it ended. Colin could feel the heavy vibration of the instruments as the band rattled its way through the piece.
Colin surveyed the room. A long-bar made up one entire wall. The bar itself had a vinyl cushion around the outer edge, the surface a polished brass veneer. The wall behind the bar was mirrored from the counter to the low ceiling. The track lighting shone back against the mirrors, illuminating the area immediately around the bar. Glass shelves held the numerous colored bottles of liquor, liqueurs, imported and domestic beers. Two bartenders wearing white shirts and black pants moved continuously from customer to customer mixing, pouring and serving drinks.
The remainder of the room was a series of cubicles formed by wooden banisters that surrounded the dance floor. Each cubicle contained two or three tall circular tables surrounded by barstools. The dance floor itself was quite small, the parquet tiles forming a small space approximately twelve feet by twelve feet square.
The bandstand, if it could be called that, was a small elevated platform on one side of the dance floor. About half the size of the dance floor, it was raised about one foot. There was barely enough room to hold the four members of the band and their equipment.
The room itself was comfortably packed. Enough patrons to make management happy, but sufficient room for the patrons to move around without pushing and shoving.
Morgan and Shelley had taken up a position near the dance floor in one of the cubicles. Colin could see that they were making a futile attempt to converse. Morgan’s lips would move, then Shelley would shake hear head and move her ear closer to Morgan’s mouth. This procedure was repeated three times before Shelley finally nodded her head in agreement. Then it was Shelley’s turn to say something to Morgan and the scenario would start over. Colin smiled and turned to check out the rest of the bar.
Colin made his way out of the dance room into a small courtyard. The pungent odor of clove cigarettes filled the air with a heavy, sweet, sickening smoke. Colin was feeling old, and the number of patrons who watched him as he moved across the courtyard were not helping him any. Away from the noise of the band, Colin could overhear snatches of conversation from the crowd.
“I realize One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was entertaining, but Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion made a much stronger political statement…”
“I’ve done acid a few times. Ecstasy is where is at. It’s…it’s…love, you know…”
“Tailhook was only a symptom of the acceptance by the military establishment of oppression of minorities, women, and gays…”
“Yeah that pig deserved it. Whoever did it deserves a fuckin’ medal.”
This last statement caught Colin’s attention. The statement’s owner was a young man with straight, dyed black hair. He had several earrings in the one ear Colin was able to see and a ring through his eyebrow and one through his nostril. The rings were attached with a dainty chain. As he spoke Colin could hear a clicking noise. The young man stopped to laugh. Colin could see the clicking noise was caused by a large ring through his tongue.
The young man looked toward Colin.
“What are you lookin’ at?” the young man snarled.
“I’ve seen you before,” said Colin, “I just can’t place you. Oh yeah, now I know where.” He turned to walk away.
“Hey man, where do you know me from?” called the young man.
Colin turned back smiling. “You’re the poster child for retroactive birth control, aren’t you?” Colin turned and completed his short journey across the courtyard before the young man realized he had been insulted. The distance, crowd noise and earplugs prevented Colin from hearing the obscenities yelled at his back.
The second room at Thrashers contained four pool tables and a small satellite bar. The pool room was almost as busy as the main room. Other than the light at the bar, the pool room was illuminated by nothing more than the fluorescent lights suspended over the pool tables. The recesses of the room were dark, and the people there were mere shadows. The room was poorly ventilated and cigarette smoke hung in a haze.
Colin made his way to the bar and ordered a soda. He grudgingly paid the bartender a dollar and a half for the paper cup of warm soda. He found an empty bar stool on the perimeter of the room and sat down.
The players at the pool tables would become visible when they stepped forward to make a shot. Once the shot was completed, the player would step back into the darkness and become a shadow until the next turn. Some of the players were quite accomplished; others, however, were not. Then of course there were the drunks who were incapable of making any shot, no matter what their degree of skill sober.
Colin’s attention was drawn to the pool table at the far side of the room. Several 20-something men were chatting loudly and obviously having a good time. He watched as three took turns sending the cue ball clattering around the table. He was about to make his way back to the main room when a hoot went up from the table and the fourth player prepared to make a shot.
The tall slender female with short blonde hair leaned over the table and sank two balls. The leather jacket covered her top, but as she moved around the table and bent over for the next shot, he could see the admiration from her fellow players came from the tattered Levis which exposed her buttocks.
It was her. It had to be Sheila. Colin took the photocopies from his pocket and glanced at them quickly, comparing it to the woman across the room. She scratched on the next shot and retreated into the shadows. He could barely make her out in the dim light. There was someone sitting next to her, but at the distance the person was nothing more than a darker shadow.
Colin wanted a better look before he went to get Morgan and Shelley. He slid off the barstool and walked to the back wall where a chalk board hung, listing the challengers for the four pool tables. He picked up the chalk and pretended to write his name. Looking to his right he could see Sheila sitting next to a black man with a shaved head. He hesitated at the board a little too long.
“Hey, dude, you putting your name up or writing a poem to the chick?” shouted a drunk voice behind him. He turned to see young man with the pierced face standing behind him. “Hurry your sorry old ass up!”
Colin turned his gaze back to Sheila. She was looking right at him. He turned back to the board and finished writing. He turned and as casually as possible flipped the chalk to the young man, who dropped it on the floor. Before he moved to make his way back to his stool he turned to see Sheila still looking at him.
Dammit, she’s made me, thought Colin, as he continued back to his seat.
“Hey, asshole,” said the young man as he grabbed Colin by the arm from behind, “I don’t know who the fuck you think…”
Colin whirled around and caught the young man by the throat with his thumb and forefinger, “Listen, nutsack, back off!” The young man gagged as Colin watched Sheila and the black man head for the hallway at the other end of the room.
“Shit!” said Colin, as he tossed the young man aside. He pulled the handi-talkie from his coat pocket. “Unit 21-23 Fahey. I’ve got the male and female suspect in the pool room. Cover now.” He did not wait for a response as he charged across the room. He came to the hallway and saw that it led to the main room. It was empty. He ran the short length of the room and came out overlooking the bar and dance floor. They were not there. Morgan and Shelley were still seated at the far end of the room, looking away from him. He turned back into the hallway and saw the small green light halfway down at ceiling level. It read EXIT. In his haste he had missed the fire door in the darkness. He ran to the door and pushed it open. Outside there was no one.
“Unit 21-23 Fahey, possible suspects have just left the building through fire exit on the south side. Cover now!”
“Unit 21-23 SAM, all units to the south side of building.” It was Scott Raines. “Unit 21-23 Fahey, Amadiana should be near that location. Do you see him?”
Colin looked around. There was no one on the sidewalk or in the street. “Unit 21-23 Fahey, that’s a negative.”
Morgan and Shelley had heard the second radio transmission and left the bar through the main entrance. They were now running up the street to cover Colin. The acceleration of a car and squealing of tires announced the arrival of Scott Raines.
“Shit, Joe! Where the fuck are you?” hissed Colin in exasperation.
Joe was cold, antsy and out of cigarettes. Now his butt was asleep. His last night on the Department and he was on a stake-out. Contrary to popular belief, stake-outs were rarely successful. He could count on his hands the number of successful stake-outs he had taken part in over the past twenty years. This was almost as bad as the typewriter caper back in the ‘70s. After a series of burglaries in the business complexes of Mission Valley in which IBM Selcetric typewriters were stolen, some genius in crime analysis came up with a profile. According to the statistics, the break-ins were occurring between Sunday nights 11 p.m. and Monday morning 5 a.m. Joe had been one of the twenty-officer task force who sat on the roof tops of several high rise buildings, in the rain, in winter, over a period of two months. Meanwhile the burglaries continued. A month after the task force was disbanded, without a single arrest, a rookie stopped the culprits right after a break-in on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Crime analysis, it seems, had not taken into account the fact that the business area was virtually shut down on Sundays in the daytime as well. This was prime time for the fair-weather thieves.
Joe was trying to remember where the closest liquor store was when the side door of Thrashers flew open. He caught his breath as the blonde woman came out followed by a black man with a shaved head.
“Fuckin’-A,” whispered Joe.
He forced himself up as the pair ran up the street. Joe’s legs ached as he started after them. He pulled the handi-talkie from his jacket. He depressed the transmitter button. “Unit 21-23 Amadiana. I’ve got the suspects on the south side of the building running east. Cover now.” He released the transmitter button, but did not hear the familiar crack of the radio returning to receiver mode.
“Unit 21-23 Amadiana. Does anyone copy?” he said into the radio as he hobbled across the street following the man and the woman. “Goddammit, Goddammit, shit, shit, shit.”
He stopped in the middle of the street, realizing the radio was dead. He had forgotten to check the battery before leaving Western Division. In frustration he hurled the radio against the side of the bar. It shattered into pieces. He continued up the street after the couple who had now turned the corner and were heading north.
He reached the corner and caught his breath. He could see two figures running down the sidewalk. He pulled his revolver from his waist holster and renewed his pursuit just as Colin was bursting from the side door of the bar.
Sheila did not like the look of the guy in the bar. He was too old for the scene and he looked like a cop. When he grabbed that guy by the throat, but looked over at her, she knew. She grabbed a surprised Tyrone by the arm.
“Let’s go. Pigs,” she said.
The obedient Tyrone followed as she rushed from the pool room and slipped out the fire door. Once outside, Sheila paused for a moment. Seeing only an old wino across the street in the parking lot, she continued running up the block and around the corner. As they ran, Tyrone looked over his shoulder, but saw no one. They continued down the block, turned the corner and crossed the street.
When they reached the van, Tyrone fumbled for the keys. Sheila continued to look around.
“Hurry up, Tyrone. We gotta get outta here,” she said, anxious but not angry. She did not want to upset Tyrone.
She looked back to the corner as the old wino came into view. He stopped a few feet from them breathing hard. In his hand was a pistol.
“Hold it. Police,” gasped Joe, in between heavy breaths.
“Shit,” said Sheila, grabbing Tyrone’s arm, pulling him away from the van as she continued running away from the bar.
“Ah, jeez,” said Joe as he resumed his pursuit.
As he struggled to catch up to the pair, he almost ran into the Mexican man who was getting out of a Ford Bronco. They were now almost a block ahead of him.
Joaquin Torres had started to doze off in the cold Bronco when Sheila and Tyrone ran around the corner and up to the van. They had caught him off guard. He quickly pulled the pistol from his waist band and opened the door. He was so intent on the pair he did not see the other man with a gun in his hand. As he stepped out of the Bronco, Sheila and Tyrone rushed past him. The old man in the dirty clothes nearly knocked him over.
“Pinche asshole,” cursed Joaquin as he recoiled from the man. The man ignored him as he ran after the pair. Joaquin was mad now. He had waited long enough. Those two were dead and if the old man wanted a piece of him, he was dead too. Joaquin joined in the bizarre pursuit.
Sheila and Tyrone ran for another block. They came to space between two large warehouses. Not large enough to be called an alley, the space was filled debris and two or three dumpsters. Extending high up and out from the wall were a series of halogen security lights. At the far end was a reinforced chain-link fence. On the other side of the fence Sheila could see bushes peeking over the top. Beyond them, the huge concrete structure of the freeway rose up. She looked down the street and saw the old cop running after them.
“This way,” she said, entering the corridor. They made the end in seconds. Sheila jumped up on a dumpster against the fence. She had started to climb the fence when a voice stopped her.
“Goddammit, I’m not going to say it again!” shouted Joe, his breath labored. “Police Department. Stop and put your hands where I can see them. Now, Assholes!”
Joe had stepped far enough into the passageway that he was now under one of the lights. Sheila could see his face clearly. She looked down at Tyrone, who was still on the ground. He looked to her for guidance. She motioned toward Joe with her head and raised her hands. She could take this guy if she could just get close enough. Tyrone raised his hands. No one saw the figure appear behind Joe.
Joe was about to order the pair to lie down when an explosion went off behind him. He flinched and threw himself against the wall. He saw the black man grab his chest and stagger. Joe turned in time to have a second huge yellow flash explode like a cannon just inches from his face. He was blinded by the flash. His only thought was that one of the other detectives had followed him and now for some reason opened fire.
“Jesus Fucking Christ!” screamed Joe as he hesitated, pointing his revolver toward the gunfire.
Joaquin Torres had arrived at the passageway seconds after Joe. Sizing up the situation, he decided to take out Tyrone first, then the old man with gun, finally the girl. He aimed the magnum revolver at Tyrone and squeezed off the first shot. Through the recoil he saw Tyrone grab his chest, but he did not fall. He aimed as the old man fell against the wall. Joaquin fired again. This shot hit Tyrone in the left eye. Exiting, it tore off the back of his skull. Tyrone was dead before his body hit the ground.
Joaquin turned the gun now to execute the old man.
He prepared to fire as the old man yelled and stumbled back against the wall. A scream of engines filled the air as the jet airliner suddenly appeared overhead. The freeway had masked its approach to the airport and now it appeared as if by magic. To Joaquin it seemed to be crashing into to this little alley. He screamed and fired. The shot went wild, ricocheting off the wall above the old man. Joaquin turned and threw himself to the ground, the revolver flying from his hand. It skittered across the sidewalk and fell through the grate of a storm drain under a derelict car. Joaquin gathered himself as the old man began to stand up. Terrified, he ran back down the street to his Bronco to get away.
Sheila had been gazing down at Tyrone who looked back at her and smiled when Joaquin fired the first shot. She watched as Tyrone reacted with surprise and grabbed his chest. He looked at her as if to say “What happened?”
She screamed “NO!” as the second shot rang out and watched as Tyrone’s head exploded, spraying her with blood, pieces of skull and brain. He fell without a sound. As the jet passed overhead, she turned to see the cop staggering against the wall, looking away, waving his gun.
She turned and sprang against the chain link fence and with one quick effort pulled herself to the top. She hesitated at the top, looking back at the cop who was now standing looking at her, his gun at his side. She etched his face in her mind. She shrieked animal-like as she threw herself over the fence and into the bushes below. She regained her feet and ran into the bushes adjacent to the freeway.
All Joe could see was a huge yellow spot. He was nearly deaf from the gunfire. He thought someone shot at him, but when he looked, he saw no one at the entrance to the passage. He turned and thought he heard the girl scream, but could see no one. Dazed, gun at his side, he walked to the still body of Tyrone lying on the ground. In between flashes of light, he could see Tyrone was missing most of his head as his blood flowed into a pool surrounding his body.
Joe leaned back against the wall and allowed himself to slide down until he was sitting cross legged on the ground a few feet from Tyrone. His pistol dangled from his hands. Through the ringing in his ears, he thought he heard someone calling his name.
He looked at Tyrone and sighed. “Well, buddy, this is mighty fucked up.”