Continued from Chapter 21.
Colin arrived at the corner of Burgener Street and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard in about seven minutes. There was very little traffic on the road, but the steady rain had flooded many of the intersections which were on his route. The city storm drain system had not been well planned. As the city expanded during the sixties and seventies and into the eighties, no effort had been made by the city council to require developers to improve the infrastructure. While the developers got rich and moved on, the city suffered. The result was heavily congested corridors of traffic, too few modern schools, and a sewer and storm drain system that was only slightly more sophisticated than the aqueducts of ancient Rome. Locals joked it was unsafe to be near any of the pump stations on Mission Bay during half-time on Super Bowl Sunday. At least one station would blow and send a wave of untreated sewage gushing into the northeastern portion of the bay.
Colin had not been able to take a direct route tonight as a result of the inch and a half of rain that had fallen during the afternoon and evening. He felt himself becoming more and more upset with having to compensate for his partner, who had probably downed at least a pint of vodka in the hour and a half they had been separated. Now Joe was too afraid to drive, but good ol’ Colin would drive, then good ol’ Colin would smooth things over with the Sarge, then good ol’ Colin would cover for him all night long. At least tonight he would be paired with Morgan and Shelley, while Joe sat outside with Scott. Maybe he would not have to do anything after all. Maybe Scott would finally see what a screw-up his partner really was.
Now he was stopped at the intersection of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and Burgener Street, and no Joe. In fact the only person around was some homeless guy trying to keep dry under the roofed bus stop on the corner. Colin was just about ready to give up when the light turned green. Suddenly the homeless guy looked over at Colin and started waving frantically.
I don’t need this, thought Colin, as the homeless guy began running for Colin’s car. The guy charged into the street, landing in eight inches of water, as Colin began to accelerate away. Suddenly, Colin realized the homeless guy was Joe. He stopped as Joe reached his car. Joe yanked open the door and jumped in, his pants soaked from the knees down.
Colin looked at Joe incredulously. He literally looked like he had just been released from the mission. Colin had to admit the stocking cap was a nice touch. He, on the other hand, wore a black collarless shirt under a black sport coat. They matched his pleated black pants and black cowboy boots. To keep warm, he was wearing a charcoal gray wool overcoat.
“Going for the deep cover look tonight, Joe?” quipped Colin, as he pulled from the curb. He inhaled deeply, trying to detect the odor of alcohol, but all he smelled was wet clothes.
“Listen up, pal,” said Joe, when he caught his breath, “I’ve had a pretty shitty couple of hours of which taking a bath in the gutter back there was just about as good as it got. So, to say the least, I am in a pretty fuckin’ foul mood. Now I know Sergeant Scottie is gonna give me a real ass chewing when we get to Western, so I would appreciate ten minutes of silence on your part. Do you think you could arrange that?”
“Whatever,” replied Colin, as he resumed the trip to the Western Division substation.
The Black Crow tape still played on the car stereo. The song was quite a bit more melancholy than what Colin had been listening to before. Joe listened as Chris Robinson mournfully sang the lyrics to “She Talks to Angels.”
“…She keeps a lock of hair in her pocket. She wears a cross around her neck. Yes, the hair is from a little boy. The cross from someone she has not met, not yet…”
Joey’s vacant eyes flooded into Joe’s memory. For a moment, he thought he would start weeping.
“Do you mind if I put on something a little more uplifting?” asked Joe.
“Suit yourself, tapes are in the glove box,” replied Colin, still stinging from Joe’s barrage.
Joe found a Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings tape. He ejected the Black Crows and inserted the new tape. Waylon and Willie were singing something about a clean shirt and going to Mexico. Joe settled back in his seat.
“I must say you certainly have eclectic taste in music,” observed Joe. He wanted a cigarette badly, but he knew smoking was a strict taboo in Colin’s car.
“I thought you wanted some silence?” snapped Colin.
“Sorry, sorry. You’re right, I’ll just shut up,” said Joe. He pulled his jacket around himself and stared out the window.
The Western Division substation, opened in the early eighties, was a prime example of why civil servants should never be allowed to make decisions that affect the public.
In selecting the lowest bid, the city contract office apparently never looked into the general contractor’s ability or past performance. Completed many months behind schedule, the substation was a myriad of flaws. The car wash drain had never been hooked up to a drainage pipe line and the parking lot had to be torn up to make the connection. The material used for drainage lines was inferior and placed too close to the surface, resulting in a number of police cars found sinking in the parking lot.
A sign was hung on the urinals that read, “Put pee-pee away before flushing to avoid scalding!” after it was determined, rather painfully by someone, that the urinals had been hooked up to the hot water line as opposed to the cold water line. Someone had convinced the city that a “swamp cooler” would be an effective way to air condition the substation. Perhaps, had it been located in Yuma, Arizona, where the humidity is around two percent year round, the swamp cooler would have been a good plan. Located less than one hundred yards from the San Diego River, it was anything but. It was eventually replaced after moss and fungus from Jurassic Park were found flourishing in the men’s locker room.
The crowning blow to the substation’s reputation was a result of its anti-terrorist construction. Built low with heavy block walls, the specifications indicated the building would sustain little damage from the frequent rocket and mortar attacks on police stations in San Diego. On the downside, the building was also radio proof, which meant the portable radios used by the San Diego Police Department could receive transmissions within the building, but none could be sent.
On one particular night a young officer returned to the station to impound several baggies of marijuana in the narcotics impound locker. During the day, doors leading to the impound room were unlocked to facilitate access to officers, investigators, administrators and support personnel. This officer was the first to make a night deposit. Upon entering the impound room the door automatically shut behind him. He completed the impound and prepared to leave, only to find there were no key holes to insert his key to let himself out. During the day, this would have been no problem. Any one of a number of people would have seen his dilemma through the heavy bullet proof windows and freed him. Night time at the station was a little different. Occasionally, the shift lieutenant or sergeant might have paperwork to catch up on, but generally, no one was in the station. Further, the officer had not thought to notify dispatch where he would be. Now he could not transmit out. When he failed to respond to a radio call, his fellow officers became concerned something had happened to the conscientious officer. An all-out search began from his last known location in O.B. Several hours later, his sergeant returned to the station to call the chief and notify him of a missing officer. He found the missing officer, red-faced and sweating, pounding silently on the window of the property room. Repairs to the station began shortly thereafter.
Colin pulled into the driveway of Western Division and rolled down the window of his car to reach the code pad which would activate the security gate. He hesitated before pushing the key pad, remembering the ghosts which still haunted the substation, wondering if he risked an electrical shock when he touched the key pad. He entered the code without incident, and the gate rolled open, allowing access to the parking area.
The rain had stopped. Joe and Colin could even see an occasional star in the breaks between the clouds above. They left the parking lot to enter the warmth of the building. The evening shift sergeant, Andrew Allenson, was seated in his office. Allenson, a crusty veteran of 35 years, leaned back in his chair, an unlit pipe hanging from his mouth. He had been quoted in a newspaper some years before as saying it was better for him to drink three beers in his car on the ride home than to sit in a bar and get drunk, then drive home. The quote cost him a couple of unpaid days on the beach, but the administration was afraid to do much more. Allenson lived by the motto, “Always have dirt on the other guy.” In 35 years, he had acquired quite a pile, from the chief on down.
“Evening, boys,” said Allenson, in a cheerful voice.
“Hi, Andy,” replied Joe and Colin, almost in unison.
“Your boss is in the conference room with the rest of your team. Pretty stormy out tonight, huh?” asked Allenson.
“Seems to be letting up,” said Colin.
“Well, it’s pretty stormy in the conference room. Look out for squalls,” warned Allenson, with a wink at Joe.
“Oh shit,” sighed Joe, as they turned and walked down the hall. They could hear muffled conversation as they approached the conference room. Joe followed Colin into the room.
Morgan was seated in the corner, leaning back in his chair propped against the wall, sleeping quietly. Shelley and Scott Raines had been engaged in conversation when the two entered the room.
Scott Raines spoke first. “Eight o’clock means eight o’clock. Not eight-twenty. I suppose there is a good excuse, Joe.”
“Sorry, Sarge, my company car’s dead. Sounded like the battery. I would have been here on time, but…”
“I am not going to get into it now. We have work to do. You and I will deal with this later,” interrupted Raines.
Colin sat down and looked uncomfortably from Shelley to Morgan, who was now awake.
“Now, just so we are all up on what is happening, I have a few items of import that we should be going over,” said Scott Raines, abruptly changing the subject. “First of all, Carl is serving a search warrant on Leonard Jefferson’s home in O.B. He has not turned up anything significant yet, but he will page us if something turns up.
“Second, it looks like our salt and pepper team has been involved in some kind of altercation in Clairemont. Apparently they beat up some patron at the Moonglow. The victim is being treated for a concussion and the bartender did not see what happened, but his description of the two matches the two from County Jail today. The patrol units at the scene found a cab with the peanut light on and a lot of blood in the back seat. And the cab driver is missing. I do not know what kind of spin this puts on things, but it is just one more little tidbit to add to what we already have.
“Finally, St. Jean Batiste went to the impound yard and recovered the mojo, Rather, I should say he had his partner recover the mojo. He told me he was not going to touch that thing. They took it to the lab for analysis.”
The last part earned a cautious chuckle from Colin, Morgan and Shelley. Joe sat sullenly, fiddling with his note pad.
“For tonight, I want to check this bar out, but I do not want to make it an all-nighter. We are all tired. Oh yes, and Lt. Jorgenson is not happy with the overtime starting to pile up. The surveillance should not take more than two hours on the outside. I want Morgan, Shelley and Colin inside. If it feels right, you can show the photos of our pair just do not tip anybody off. Joe, you and I will watch the outside and act as back up. Any questions?”
There was no response from the group.
“Okay let us do it. Joe, you ride with me.”
“Whatever,” said Joe, resigning himself to the upcoming lecture from Raines.
The team made its way out of the building. There was a cold wind blowing from the ocean. The storm, however, had definitely started to break up. The clouds, which had earlier blocked out the sky, were now mere shadows as they raced overhead. Instead of all black, they were shaded in grey and white, illuminated from a nearly full moon. Stars sparkled in the clean sky between the patches of clouds.
By mutual agreement, Shelley, Morgan and Colin decided to take Colin’s car. They left the substation as Joe waited for Raines, leaning against the sergeant’s car, smoking a cigarette. As they drove by, Joe waved to the group, Colin refused to acknowledge him.
Scott Raines came out of the building, walking determinedly to Joe. Joe braced himself for the verbal onslaught. It did not happen. Scott Raines walked past Joe and got in the car and started it up. Surprised, Joe quickly snubbed out his cigarette and climbed in.
As they drove from the station parking lot, Scott Raines broke the silence.
“Before you say anything, Joe, I want you to hear exactly what I have to say. First of all, you are killing yourself. That is your business and not mine. If I were in your position, however, I would seriously look at getting some kind of help. Enough about that. Secondly, I want you off my team.”
Joe was shocked. It felt as though the air had been sucked out of him. He turned to look at Raines, his mouth slightly opened.
Scott continued, looking straight ahead at the road, “The way I see it, you can do it two different ways. If you ask for a transfer to the report writing desk, I will approve it. The position will give you time to get your act together. Perhaps down the road you can come back to Homicide, although at this point, that is highly unlikely. If you do not accept my offer, I will ask that you be relieved of duty based upon your alcoholism. You are a hazard to yourself, other officers and the public. I have given you adequate latitude to work out your problems, but the situation has come to the point where you are jeopardizing much more than just yourself. I want a team of four, not three and a drunk.”
Scott Raines paused. Joe had expected to be chastised, but this took him completely by surprise. Out of homicide? Out of investigations? The report writing desk? My God, he might as well be dead. Scott Raines’ offensive had sent his mind reeling. He could hear Francine shrieking at him, “You fucking drunk!” If he did not have Homicide, he had nothing. Scott Raines had been so cold, it was like nothing had ever happened between them, like a mercenary putting him out of action. He would fight it, that’s it, he would fight him. Then the whole department would see the only reason this team ever accomplished anything was because of him. Think you can kick me out of Homicide? We’ll see about that, you ungrateful son-of-a-bitch.
Joe looked over at Raines, his head jerking involuntarily. His mouth moved slightly, but no sound came out. He turned away looking out the window, feeling helpless.
What’s the use, I can’t fight these guys. They’re all in this together. Scott and Colin, they’re out to do me. he thought.
“Well, Joe, what is going to be?” asked Scott Raines, still looking straight ahead.
“Um, Scott, you kinda caught me off guard here. I’d like to think about it a little.”
“You have until tomorrow morning.” said Raines, pulling off the freeway.
What a mess, thought Joe. And I thought this day couldn’t get any worse.
But it was about to.