At the Academy the next morning. Mahoney calls me into his office before start of day. I expect the axe. He’s about ready to talk when some of the other DIs come in. They look at me like I’ve got foam coming out of my mouth. Mahoney takes me by the arm. We go for a walk.
“That was a hell of a move yesterday...where'd you pick it up?”
“I read a lot, Sir.”
“Shit ain't in no book.”
We size each other up. Neither one is what the other expected. He tells me about his past with the captain. Stepped on the captain’s dick at a hostage shootout. On TV. Live TV. That’s why he’s been here four and a half years trying to make sergeant. The captain won’t let him. He fails the oral part of the exam by one point. Every time. My class is going to be his last. Going back to the street. Now it’s my turn. Last time I trusted somebody it was the worst mistake of my life. My head says don’t…my gut says go. I glorify my gut. Tell him everything. Everything.
“That’s one of the strangest fuckin' stories I ever heard...how'd you know how to act?”
“Hood ain't much dif’runt from the reservation...lotta the same rules.”
“Yeah...get jumped in when you're old enough...don't ask questions... dif’runt language...special names... you'd be surprised.”
“Why'd you go it alone?”
“Noticed a couple’ a secretaries in personnel had gang tattoos...thought I was bein' smart.”
“You ain't the first one to fuck up by bein' too smart.”
He lets me know he’s got my back. I believe him. Thirteen weeks later, I graduate. Off to the jail.
Haven’t been working the jail very long when I get called into the Doc’s office. They want to check on an injury I reported in the second week of the Academy that’s just come to light. Seems my DI covered it up. He filed it when he resigned to go work for the DA’s office. Mahoney really has my back. I play along.
“Sorry...still can't believe that D.I. denied you treatment...any injury, especially to a...he's lucky he's no longer with the department...how the hell'd you finish the last sixteen weeks?”
“It’s just mind over matter.”
“A positive mental attitude can...”
“No, no...They didn't mind...and I didn't matter.”
He laughs that little nervous laugh people do when they’re afraid. Tells me I need surgery. No shit, really? I’ll be good as new in eight weeks. Lying sack of shit. The fix is already in, and I don’t have a clue.
The next eight weeks are golden. Shawna, my girls and Tony. We’re together all the time. I told her once it was too good to last. She laughed. She said we had a lifetime to go. Lives can be short though. Turns out it was the lull before the storm. The leg doesn’t get better. I rehab it like a motherfucker. Do more quad lifts than I can count. Build the muscle back…but the knee keeps going out on me. The Doc’s draining 100 CCs of blood and fluid out of the knee three times a week. Still tells me things are OK. Cocksucker was on the take. So much for the Hippocratic Oath.
At the end of the eight weeks, I’m back to work…and the leg’s for shit. Well, I’ve got enough juice to get a cake job. Besides, the captain of the jail likes me. I know how to treat my informants…and they give me good shit…makes the captain look good. He loves the press.
A couple of months go by. The leg’s not getting any better, but I’m working the khaki dorms or the loading dock, so it’s all good. The Khakis are all short timers…they don’t want any trouble. No fights. No shanks. Just a little peach jack every once in a while. They make a pretty good brew out of it. Sweet, but potent. I never confiscate all of it. Let’em keep a taste. They’re happy. Things run smooth. Then the shit hits four fans…and I’m in the middle.
Sergeant calls me aside after briefing one morning. Tells me I’ve been transferred to twenty-three hundred. My balls climb up to my throat.
“I’ve been down here for over three months... I've got seniority on half the crew... why me?”
“It was thought, with your experience...”
“Who the fuck you tryin' to kid? Huh? You think I don't know about twenty-three hundred? That's where they send fuck-ups...hell, it's been on lock-down since before I got here...every couple weeks a deputy gets jumped...and me with my leg like this.. That’s like havin' a blind man with the hick-ups give you a shave before you get pushed in the fuckin' shark tank.”
“It's outta' my hands, Norris.”
I head to the captain’s office. Gonna get this shit straightened out right now. Blow by the secretary. You probably know who is inside. I didn’t. My captain Got himself transferred to the jail.
“Long time, no see, Jay...how the hell are you, huh?...no time for pleasantries...same old
Jay...well... what can I do for ya?...got a problem?...that's what I'm here for, ya know?...just to help...anything you need...anything...you just come see me...my door's always open.”
I’m in really deep shit now. Twenty-three hundred is on the old side of the jail. Set up for one hundred inmates in single man cells. There’s two hundred and fifty there now. So overcrowded, they’ve got them sleeping on bunk beds on the freeways. Most of them are bone 187. Murderers. At least half are in on multiple counts. Nothing to lose. They’ve been on lock down for six months…which means they only get out to go to court. No stores. No visits. No roof time or phones. Fuck, they even bring chow in to these motherfuckers. Every time they get off of lock down, they assault another Deputy. And they’re do to get off of lock down in ten days. Did I mention I was fucked?
First day in twenty-three hundred. My new home. The inmates are teeth fucking me. They figure I must be a fish Deputy. Working the off the street program. No Academy and no training. That’s the only kind they send down here. Cannon fodder.
First thing I notice is the khaki trustees. Most modules on old side are allowed to make trustees out of the inmates from that module. Not here. Not with so many 187s and all the lock downs. These khakis look fat and happy. Time to find out why. Time to go to school…if I want to live. New jungle. Same rules.
I do research on my inmates over the next few days. Other than that, just fly low and slow. Let things stay the way they were until I’m ready. No Deputy has walked these rows while they’re on lock down. Too afraid of getting jumped. I decide to play a hunch. Wait till the khakis are at chow. Walk one of my upper rows. No freeway bunks up here. Go out the back door. Down the stairs. The back doors have a small glass window. Covered with paper. I peel back a corner and wait. Fifteen minutes later the khakis are back. Two come down that row. Mopping. Never occurs to them I’m not on break, let alone watching from here. No one goes backside at twenty-three hundred. Too dangerous. Too dangerous not to, for me. Observation time.
I told you what inmates lose on lock down. When you’re on the ins, you’ll do almost anything for the things that remind you of being on the outs. Of being human. Candy bars. Smokes. Getting word out to who ever you care about. The sun on your face. Air that’s not recycled. Fresh. These men haven’t had that for six months. Six fucking months. Can you imagine that? If you said yes, and you haven’t done time…you’re lying to yourself. What would you pay for any of that?
In nineteen eighty three, in twenty-three hundred, you’d pay…
$5 for a candy bar.
$7.50for a magazine…Playboys $5 extra.
$10 for a pack of smokes.
A message out? Priceless. Whatever they ask. Including assaulting a Deputy when you get off of lock down.
Those khakis were rolling in it. Four khakis. Two hundred and fifty inmates. The inmates could get money off of their “books” even on lock down with a kite. Do the math. I watched the money change hands. Saw where the khakis hid it. Waited till they were gone. Went back to my booth.
How do you turn this to your advantage?
I get in touch with Mahoney over at the DA’s office. He can get me info on the sly. I’ve got the inmates pegged I want. Time to see if I’m right. Mahoney tells me I am. Wants to know how I knew who to pick for what I’m planning.
“I read a lot.”
“Shit ain’t in no book, Jay.”
“Don’t read books…read people.”
He wishes me luck. My plan is simple: Catch the khakis with too much money. Roll them up. Replace them with my own trustees. From twenty-three hundred. Use the killers that the other inmates are too afraid to fuck with. A million to one shot. Time to roll the dice.
I call the rover deputies in the next day. Have them frisk the khakis. They don’t find anything. The khakis are smiling at me. Stupid fish Deputy. I make them drop their pants. There’s a small bag sewn into the crotch of the pants for each khaki…and two small ball bearings. Makes the Deputies think their touching…well, you get the idea. Above the ball bearings is their stash. They each have over a thousand in cash. I told you to do the math. They ain’t smiling now. The rovers roll them up. On their way to thirty-three hundred. The “behavior modification module.” We call it the hole. Ten days on jute balls…burnt soy meat loaf…and time added to their sentences. I think they like me so much now, they’d like to have sex with me. Too bad for them, I don’t swing that way. Time for part two.
I rack my inmates out. Send them in the dayroom. All two fifty. Toss my keys to one of the rovers. The last thing I hear going in the door is from his partner.
“It's his fuckin' funeral, man.”
Must be my boyish charm. Always endears me to people. I lock myself in. They’re looking at me like I’m a piece of raw meat…and they’re the lions…and nobody’s fed them for a long fucking time. Still, they’re curious. They wait. Watch. Listen.
“Gentlemen...as of today, we start from scratch...you are no longer on lock-down, at least when I'm here...there will be five minute phone calls for each of you everyday...you will get stores three times a week... roof time...twice a week… and for special events TV time.”
“Like Soul Train?”
“Like Soul Train...I'm not doing you any favors... these are all things you should get...don’t fuck with me and I won’t fuck with you.”
“What a buster.”
“He say you a buster...uh...that mean you awright...real bad...like, you know...bustin' down the walls an shit...a tough muthuh fuckuh.”
“Really? Wow...gee, thanks...I, uh...don't know what to say…How many
of you guys really think I'm a buster?”
Almost everyone raises their hands. I motion to the biggest inmate in the room to come up to the front. The atmosphere is like a carnival. When he gets close, I put my hand out. Smile as big as I can. He sticks his hand out to me. I grab his wrist suddenly with both hands, bend it over backward, and push up on it. It breaks. Then I grab him by his corn-rows, and slam him face first into the wall. Everyone is stunned.
“Don't ever fucking dis me again...not in my home...you got that? I'll punk you ways you never even dreamed of.”
“We already locked up, muthu fuckuh... you can't do shit.”
A new leader speaks. I’m ready. I reach out and snatch off his wristband. Take out my lighter. Burn it.
“Now you can't leave the module.”
Pull his JRC from my pocket. Read his name and horsepower. Burn that.
“Now, you ain't here...I drop a dime... little gal I know downtown punches you up on the computer...types in-released, O.R...now, you don't even exist.”
“You can't pull tha' shit, man...I be hollerin' an shit...deputy come and…”
They’re not all stupid. One of his buddies has it figured out.
“And tell you to shut the fuck up... nobody done a head count since I been
here...only way they know you here is by your wristband or jail card...or when you get called to court... an' if you get punched out of the system downtown, you ain' gonna get called to court...now, sit the fuck down down and shut up. We listen’ Deputy.”
“First time somebody fucks up, in any way, all of you will lose that privilege for one week...second time, you'll lose all privileges...for a month.”
”How you gonna run all this Deputy?”
”I'm not...your trustees will.”
”Come on, deputy...them khakis'll fuck it up, man.”
”Yeah, but the new ones ain' gonna be no better.”
”Ain't gonna be no new khakis. The new trustees are in this room.”
”Deputy Norris...I ain' dissin' ya... but we all Bone One-Eighty-Seven. They don' let us be no trustees.”
”This is my ride...I pick who drives….at least on my shift. Gonna be one for each row...one over them...Mister King is trustee for his side. Mister Tatupu is trustee for his...now, let's see if...”
”Excuse me deputy...you said they gonna be one over us...who the las' one?”
”The number one trustee is Mister Folger. Just remember...'till you catch the chain...ain' no East Coast...no rollin' Fifties...no Avenues. You wanna be down...be down fo' Deuce Trey. It's the only set you got right now. We all doin' time, gentlemen...we all doin' time.”
All of the inmates file out of the day room. Except one. They all have their hands in their pockets. Quiet. Orderly. The five deputies waiting in the module watch them go down their rows, then look at each other in amazement. The lone inmate with me is Billie Joe Folger. Second Street Slasher. His record says he killed eight bums downtown with a blade. Carved them up real bad. Word on the street is different. The word is he wouldn’t shuffle and bow enough for some LAPD dicks. They jumped him without badging. He put five of them in the hospital before one got his badge out. Then he went like a lamb. Did I mention he did all of it bare-handed?
Billie Joe Folger. Age: 48. Five eleven. A buck seventy-five. Fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. Lived the last fifteen years before he got popped in Chinatown. They call him the Black Dragon. Has a ninth degree black belt in seven different martial arts. Been in on trial for five years. Refused a plea that would have had him out in seven with good behavior, so they’re trying all eight counts separate. Already found guilty on five. First four years he was here he was in High Power…seventeen hundred. A lieutenant’s escort. Every time he left his cell, he was in cuffs, chained at the waist, knees and feet…guarded by one lieutenant, two sergeants and four deputies. Now he’s old news, so the captain dumped on me. His mistake. Folger wants to talk.
“King and Tatupu...wise choices...don' know how you knew...but, wise choices.”
“King is a field marshal for the BGF. Tatupu sits on the council of five of the Samoan brotherhood. Nobody in here wants to fuck with either one of them…and neither one of them want to fuck with you.”
“How could you know all of that?”
“I read a lot.”
“You ain’t gonna find that shit in any book, Deputy.”
“You in or not?”
We go out. The inmate who’s wrist I broke is waiting at the end of his row with King. Asks to go to the hospital ward. 7700. Tells me, after a sharp nudge on the broken limb from King, that he fell out of his bunk. I let him go. Things are starting to run smooth already.
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