Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Spirit of The Law vs The Letter of the Law #1

This is the start of a new series that I will come back to periodically. Most of the stories will be true...but told hypothetically...not to protect the guilty, but rather the innocent...and those that seek to protect them.



Today's story is going to be told by Jay...the lead character from TWO DOGS. Here we go.



I was part way through the Academy when this story took place. All I knew at that time was that my dirty Captain wanted me dead...he had a DI on the Academy staff out to screw me...and I had no friends on the job.



They'd been sending us out to different stations for ride-alongs for a couple of weeks. Some guys were lucky and got actual TOs(Training Officers). Not me. Somehow, I magically always got some dick that even the other Deputies wouldn't work with...almost always on graveyards...right before a new day at the Academy. Until this one...



I get called to work at East LA station. Days. They partner me with this old salt Deputy who takes a shine to me. He likes to drive, so I'm riding book...taking the calls and writing the reports. He actually talks to me about how to handle each call before we go...then breaks everything down when the call is over. Introduces me to the other deps on days. A real good learning experience. Then we get a 273 A1 call...



Section 273 a (A) of the California Penal code deals with child abuse...severe physical abuse. I reach for the mike to let them know we're on our way. He jerks the mike out of my hand...short and sweet. Slams the mike down. We're going code three in a heartbeat. Something's up...but I don't know what. My helpful TO has been replaced by a bear of a man who looks like he wants to rip somebody's head off and piss down their neck...and I don't want it to be me.



We pull up in front of a ramshackle, neon pink bungalow. There's a crowd forming already. The car is barely in park when my partner bails out the door. I'm right behind him. There's a couple standing in the open front door. Big, fat borracho and his sucked dry wife. Both look and sound Guatemalan to me. Yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. In between them is a little boy. He's wearing nothing but a pair of over-sized skivvies that he has to hold up with one small hand. From his size, I figure him to be about Ruby, my daughter's age...four or five. Looks like he's been using different colored markers all over his body. He doesn't seem to be aware of anything going on, except...my partner. Can't take his eyes off of him. Biggest brown eyes I've ever seen. I wonder what the fuck this kid is doing here with these two...he doesn't fit. Much lighter complexion...and he's a strawberry blond. The woman's hair is dark brown...but it could be dyed. The borracho's hair is black. Jet black. Something's fucked up about the whole scene...I just can't put my finger on it.



My partner gets there first. Hunkers down to get on the kid's eye level. That's the first time I really get a good look at him. I was wrong about the markers...dead wrong. They're scars. Burn scars. Some cigar, some cigarette...some look like...fuck, I don't even want to think about what some of them look like. The scars are different colors because of age...and depth...and pattern. What the fuck...



My partner's name is Mark. He picks the kid up and looks him over...then gently...carefully, sets the boy down. This whole time, that kid hasn't taken those big brown eyes off of Mark...once. The over-large underwear slip over to one side...and I see the newest scar. The boy's testicles have been burned...by boiling water, or something close to it. I can't imagine the pain...but there ain't one tear in that boy's eyes...and they never leave Mark. Mark hooks the big fat borracho up and heads toward the car. I'm trying to take the woman's statement. Her broken English is worse than my poor understanding of her Guatemalan dialect. That's why I was distracted for so long...it took me a while to realize that something was wrong. I couldn't figure it out at first...then...



The crowd had been buzzing from the moment we got there. Now, it was quiet. Like the hush in a bull ring before the coup de gras...that's when I heard it. The steady. repeating sound...like someone taking a hammer to an over-ripe melon. The sound was accompanied by one word...over and over again...in a low, soft monotone...



"Duck...duck...duck...duck..."



Mark had the borracho's hands cranked high behind his back with one meaty hand of his own. The other hand was entangled in the man's bloody hair. The word preceded the sickening sound by a split second...every time that Mark slammed his head into the frame around the open back door. I left the woman and the boy and ran down to the car.



Mark was a big man. Arms like tree trunks. I put my hand gently on one of those trunks. He turned and looked at me...well, not really at me. Through me. Paused for what seemed an eternity. Then he tossed the broken man into the back of the car. I looked up at the house as we roared down the street. I would still swear, to this day, that the boy was smiling...a Mona Lisa smile, but smiling.



The drunk prick seemed to recover quickly in the back seat. Cursing and swearing with every breath...the blood from his scalp wounds spraying with his spittle. You're not always as aware as you should be in the heat of the moment. Mark obviously could have, at his size, shattered the man's skull. He had been holding back...just enough. This asshole was letting Mark know he'd be out in hours...just like every time before...every time before. There's a history here...and I don't know it. Fuck me number one.



We're headed back to the station when Mark takes a sudden wrong turn through the back end of an industrial complex. Slowly edges the car up to top speed. Still hasn't spoken to me, but when he buckles his seat belt, I can guess what's coming. I buckle mine. There are no seat belts in the back of those cruisers, and shit head child beater couldn't have buckled one anyway...not with his hands cuffed behind his back. I look over at the speedometer...it's hovering around one-o-four...top end. I brace myself for what I know is coming. Borracho is oblivious...but not for long.



Mark stomps on the brakes so hard I expect his foot to slam into the ground beneath the car "Flinstone" style. Our passenger fails his "screen test"...his face smashed into the wire mesh separating the front and back seats. God does look out for drunks and idiots, and this guy's both. He starts swearing again. Mark takes off, and repeats the process. The fool sees it coming, but still can't brace himself. This time it's the side of his head...his ear looks like he tried to listen to a waffle maker. Doesn't shut him up, though. Now he's talking about the boy...and what he's going to do to him this time when he gets out. That's when I get spooked...



Mark picks up the mike...asks to be "put on the patch". That way the call only goes out to cars in our reporting district.



"This is one-eleven Charlie...I have a ten-five-fifty-five..."



There is no ten-fifty-five code on the Sheriff's Department. Fuck me number two.



We pull around to the back of the station. There are at least six black and whites waiting for us there. Mark gets out. Makes me stay in the car. The Deps from the other cars join him...they take Mister Happy around the back of the building...down a flight of stairs...where no one can see. Fuck me number three.



They all come back up about fifteen minutes later. Borracho is crying...looks like he pissed his pants too...maybe more, but I'm not close enough to smell. Mark takes him in for booking. Another fifteen minutes. Then Mark is out. In the car. Away we go. Back to the warehouses. It's been a long day now. Almost night. The colors of twilight give everything a surreal glow. Mark takes out a smoke. Lights it. Watches me. Finally speaks.



"I don't know who the fuck you are...but you ain't no Academy fish, that's for fuckin' sure. Handled yourself all day like you've been through the shits on this job for years. What's the story?"



"I read a lot."



"Close to the vest...don't blame you. OK...this could be your career, as well as mine. I'm going to give you the straight skinny. All of it. Then you're going to write the report. Fair enough?"



"Yeah."



"First of all, you need to know that there's a captain with a hard-on for me. I stepped on his dick on live TV. He wants me. Bad...and he knows he's running out of time. This would be his wet dream. You got me?"



"I got my own Ahab...so yeah...I got you."



"I bet you do...makes sense, somehow. Well, welcome to the fucked club. Now, here's the story.



The borracho's a Guatemalan. Got legal about twelve years ago. The wife's Guatemalan too...but she's illegal. They've got seven kids. They already had six when she got swept up in an INS raid ten years ago. Shipped her ass back to Guatemala. Took her a while to get back up here. Not long after she's back, he finds out she's pregnant. She's able to convince him it's his, until..."



"That boy was nine years old?"



"Yeah...hard to fuckin' believe, ain't it. Anyway, you can tell old drunk ass ain't the sharpest tool in a ball pit. She would have kept him fooled if the guy she fucked back home wasn't some rich, white, blond tourist. Even that stupid prick figured it out after a couple of months after the birth. He's pissed...his machismo's at stake. He wants to punish her. What better way than..."

"Fucking with the boy. Son of a bitch."




"Pretty much. First and fifteenth of the month is payday. He gets drunk...I got this beat about four years ago. That's when I got invited into this fucked up dance. First and fifteenth, he fucks with the kid. She calls the cops...he threatens to have her deported...the boy was born here, so..."

"He stays...and she's got no family here?"

"None. Boy would go to the brother. Then back to him when he got out. Then he'd be dead. Slow."

"Fuck."




The boy still cried when I first started coming here. He don't cry anymore. Not one sound. Ever. Just looks at me with those big brown eyes. I see them in the mirror now. I see them in my sleep. I see them every time I...doesn't matter.



It keeps getting worse. Two months ago, it was a curling iron to the boy's nipples. Still does the cigars, but just out of habit, I think. Last month he held the boys ear on a grill. Today...today he put the boy's balls in boiling water. That was it.



I saw some nasty shit in Nam. Seen worse here. This is the worst...but I don't know why. Maybe it's just the fact that the boy don't cry any more. I don't know.



The guys that met me are old buddies. We were all in Nam together. We believe that there's a big difference between the letter of the law...and the spirit of the law...and the two rarely have even a nodding acquaintance. Sometimes...sometimes you have to help out...



They made him get on his knees. I took all of the bullets out of my revolver...and then put one back in. Spun the cylinder. Put it in his mouth. Pulled the trigger. One time after the other. At some point he pissed himself...then shit himself. I stopped on the last round. It's an old trick I learned in Nam. There's a way to make sure you get to the last one. It's a useful trick.



Then I laid it out for him.



I'm retiring soon.My boys aren't. They'll let me know if there's so much as one more call to that house. If there is...here's the bullet I'll kill you with. It might go down as a drive by...or a robbery...or maybe you'll just disappear. But you'll be dead if you ever touch that boy again.



That's it, Jay...your call now. You write it up."



He got out of the car and walked off. I took out my own smokes. Lit one. Thought. Hard. The whole thing could be a set up...still...I couldn't forget that boy's eyes.



What would you do?



I wrote the report. He came back about forty-five minutes later. I was done. He never asked to see it. Just took me back to the station. I turned in the report and went to change. A three striper came and got me. The captain wanted me in his office. Mark was already in there.



"There's two careers riding on this report. You both stand by it?"

Mark is the Sphinx. Impossible to read. Am I being set up? Time to roll the dice.

Mark says it at the same time I do.

"Yeah."

"Let me read some of this out loud before you commit...On the above mentioned date and time, at the above location, blah, blah, blah...let's get to the meat of this shit...

The suspect, apparently extremely intoxicated and combative, did not respond to my partner's repeated commands to duck before entering the patrol vehicle...

Really? OK...how about this?

A small child darted out between two parked cars on our way back to the station, requiring my partner to go into a four-wheel, power lock stop, causing the suspect to...

Small child? I don't think so...then this...

The suspect, still combative, unresponsive, and apparently intoxicated, pulled away from me going down the stairs into the basement lock-up and booking area. His actions caused him to fall down the stairs, striking...

That's the biggest load of bullshit I've ever read. This is the last chance for either of you to change your story before I talk to the suspect...well?

"It went down exactly the way officer Norris wrote it."

"Jay? Last chance to salvage your career...you don't want to hitch your star to this loser. Tell me the truth...I can protect you."

"Everything happened exactly the way I wrote it...sir."

"Get the fuck out of my office...both of you. You've made a serious mistake, Norris."

"I've made them before, sir."

Mark and I walked out. In the parking lot. Neither of us spoke. Just nodded at each other. Got in our cars and left.

Mark retired on schedule. You know my story. I did try and keep tabs on the boy. Six months later, he went to the hospital for some new injuries. The dad disappeared. Everyone assumed he bailed for Guatemala. That's what the wife said. Of course, if anyone had looked closely enough, they would have found...well, never mind. Let's just say that no one was looking at the case too hard...and if you believe he made it to Guatemala, I've got some wonderful ocean front property for you on the Rez in New Mexico.

That was almost thirty years ago. Mark passed away eleven years ago. Cancer. The boy graduated from high school with honors. Got some anonymous help paying his way through an Ivy League school. Big degree. Funny thing...he came back to East LA...started mentoring inner city kids...abused kids. Does a pretty good job of it, from what I hear...

That, like I said, is just a story...a hypothetical situation. Never really happened. But...just for the sake of argument, let's say it was true. Let's say you found yourself in "Jay's" position.

What would you do?

Oh, and if any of you are wondering...except for the pain...I sleep just fine...thank you.












3 comments:

Andy said...

The law and the spirit of the law are two separate things, i agree with that. In Jay's situation, i would've done the same thing. The boracho got what was coming too him that night and he got what was coming to him in the end. However, i think it's a slippery slope when you go outside the law. There's no question that the boracho deserved a hell of a beating, probably more considering how many times he'd abused the kid, but still, it's a slippery slope and one that should be tread lightly.

with all that said, i've got a special place in my heart for guys with stones as big as Jay's

Anonymous said...

The law doesn't always protect the innocent. Sometimes matters do need to be addressed accordingly.

abaddon911 said...

I agree with what went down. I would do the same thing and then sleep like a baby on downers.

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Christopher Blake is a loving husband...devoted father...minister...crippled ex-cop...screenwriter...novelist...actor...and more than a little rough around the edges...