Foreword / Disclaimer:
This is a work of fiction (obviously), but an accurate background for the early part of my character's career. My original plan was to divide this into three parts, all of which would cover a specific portion of Joaquin Perez's time spent in the Patrol Division of the LSPD.
Recently, I have formed the opinion that I either will not be able to complete this project (much as I would like to, the time required is just not available to me right now) or completing the project will take significantly longer than I originally anticipated. With either being the case, I would prefer to share what I have thus far than leave the whole thing to collect dust.
Some events are based on actual IC events and occurrences my character was involved in, others are a complete work of fiction.
I have tried to keep it as "authentic" as possible with respect to the real-life equivalents of the people, places and things portrayed on GTA World, while still taking some level of 'creative license'. I hope I have managed to strike a reasonable balance between reality and fiction.
The Chief stood at the forefront of the stage, flanked by Deputies and additional brass, all clad in Class A dress uniforms. The sun had not let up from the beginning of the ceremony, forcing the newly minted class of fresh faced 20-something police officers to squint up at the stage, watching each speaker in silence, following their own ceremonial marching entry to the park and inspection, being seated directly in front of the stage afterward.
The chief’s white gloved hands grasped the podium adorned with the city’s seal on each side, eyes scanning the midnight blue sea of pressed Class A uniforms seated in a perfect square before the stage, backed by a far greater crowd of their families and friends seated further to the rear.
“And finally” Concluded the Chief after a 5 minute speech, “Class 7 of 2009”, winding his speech into its conclusion with a smile “Welcome to the Los Santos Police Department”. The crowd of fresh faced uniforms leapt up from their chairs, hurling their ceremonial caps into the air with a whoop of celebration before several embraced one another while others shook hands.
Joaquin Rene Perez, 21 years old and grinning from ear to ear stepped out from the crowd of brand new uniforms, once the conglomerate of rookies began splintering, spilling out and intermingling with the much larger sized crowd of civilians. Joaquin moved through the crowd, exchanging nods and white-gloved hand shakes with former classmates. Meanwhile, the brass on the stage, completely forgotten about, began to step cautiously down from the stage at the side. Perez continued pushing through the crowd, scanning the heads and faces of the civilians as he moved for familiar signs.
“Joaquin!” “Joa-QUIN-!” Esmaria practically screamed from a small crowd of family members to his left. Perez’s head snapped to the left, catching a glimpse of his mother’s forehead and arms before she was completely obscured from view by other bodies intermingling in the crowd. He began pushing his way through the crowd towards the last place her saw her, glimpsing her orange sweater and black jacket moving through the sea of people. He eventually reached her, only to be yanked into a crippling hug by the 58 year old woman that stood 6 inches shorter than his 5’10” frame. Esmaria rocked back and forth for 5 seconds on each heel, all the while attempting to suffocate Joaquin with both arms “Mom... Mom...!” He began protesting, smiling awkwardly as Josue Perez stepped through the sea of shuffling bodies to observe the two, chuckling through a warm yet subtle smile, his thinning grey hair neatly combed and trimmed. Joaquin’s open hands tilted outward in a nonverbal plea for help, Josue reached out and began patting Esmaria’s shoulder with his left hand. “Let the boy go, you’ll suffocate him” he chuckled.
Esmaria eventually let up and released Joaquin from the strangle hug, staring up at him with a gleaming smile before fussing with his uniform and trying to smoothen out the crease in his sleeve, looking back up at Joaquin’s face once more before pulling him back into another hug, squeezing her arms around his torso. “¡Mijo!” She stepped back after another 20 seconds of squeezing Joaquin, stopping to look down over his uniform and leather duty gear fastened around his waist. Joaquin slid his left arm around his mother, leaning down and making eye contact with her, fearing another onslaught of oxygen deprivation. “Mom, it’s okay” Esmaria began wrestling internally with herself to suppress the tears. Joaquin watched her for 3 seconds before looking up at Josue, shifting his face to a more controlled expression. The two locked eyes before Joaquin reached out and shook Josue’s hand, followed by pulling him into a hug.
Joaquin stepped back from Josue, looking back at his mother to see she had lost the internal struggle with the tears, now running down the side of her face.
Two photographs were taken that day, one of Joaquin dressed in his complete Class A uniform, his arm around his mother, Esmaria’s waist, standing by his left side with barely discernible tear streaks down her cheeks. The second of Joaquin complete with uniform, flanked by Esmaria and Josue on each side, all smiling.
“BOOT! Hurry up!” Barked Rick, a grey haired 47 year old Police Officer III, from other side of the parking garage, Joaquin, dressed in a brand new long sleeved uniform, adorned with a clip-on tie and badge, quickened his pace, moving briskly down the line of parked black and white outward-facing patrol cars. He only slowed his brisk walk to dodge one of the patrol cars as it accelerated out of its parking space. He tried to move quickly without kicking the brand new duty bag in his left hand, loaded for bear with various report forms, spare pens, spare batteries, citations, disposable gloves, penal code cliff notes, ammunition, additional evidence bags, a high visibility vest emblazoned with ‘POLICE’, a couple of road flares and more, everything in it a tool of his new trade, and it weighed a ton. Joaquin’s right hand carried a Remington 870 pump action shotgun between the pump and trigger guard, muzzle pointing up.
Perez reached the car Rick stood by, gripping the Remington 870 in one, bulging ‘war bag’ in the other, both arms aching. Rick stood by the hood of the car on the driver’s side, shaking his head with a tired look on his face. Joaquin stood stood still at the grill of the patrol car, trying to gauge whether or not he could or should put the bag down, all the while cursing himself for overloading it like the typical wet-behind-the-ears product of the academy. “Do you really need all of that?” Rick asked, half nodding to the bag in Joaquin’s left hand. “I wanted to be prepared, sir” Joaquin replied, months of muscle memory from the academy prompting him to stand at attention. The tired expression on Rick’s face did not change. “Load the tube, lock it up, put your shit in the back and let’s go” Joaquin stepped around to the passenger side of the patrol car and set the heavy bag down much to his relief. He performed a breach check on the Remington 870, ensuring a round was chambered before pushing the safety into place and reaching carefully into the front seat, fearing he’d hit the radio or any of the other equipment taking up much of the room in the front seat of the black and white. Joaquin locked the shotgun into place between the front seats and threw his war bag into the trunk.
“They go over checking your back seat before leaving at the start of watch in the academy?” Asked Rick, Joaquin nodded earnestly and reached for the back door of the car to start the search, only to be reminded to put on gloves in case there was something unpleasant to find left over from the back seat’s last occupant. With nothing to find, Joaquin sat down in the passenger seat and tried to breathe deeply with a range of emotions flying around in his head, excitement, nervousness, uncertainty... Rick looked across at Joaquin from the driver’s seat, silently scrutinising him for a moment before starting the car.
The black and white patrol car rolled out from the underground parking garage beneath the Mission Row Police Station on Sinner Street, turning out onto Vespucci Boulevard and into the early morning traffic. Rick cruised along in the left lane with his bare left arm sitting on top of the window, Joaquin sat rigid and upright in the passenger seat, his razor-thin short crew cut buzzing faintly against the headrest, eyes beadily scanning the slow moving traffic and the interior of the patrol car. Rick slid a pair of RayBans onto his face after unhooking the sunglasses from his breast pocket, before unhooking and keying the radio mic. Rick spoke at the mic while looking straight ahead, dropping his right hand from his face while steering casually with his left hand. “Two Adam Thirteen, show us clear from division” “Two Adam Thirteen, clear from division” responded the neutral tone of the area dispatcher while Rick hooked the radio mic back into its cradle by the broken air conditioning unit.
Joaquin’s eyes wandered over the slew of pedestrians on the crosswalk as Rick turned the patrol car through an intersection, marvelling at some of those eyes staring back at him sitting in a police car, swelling his ego somewhat under the tense first-day anxiety that occupied most of his mind. “All right, some ground rules” Rick’s voice snapped Joaquin back to reality. “This is day one, don’t do anything unless I tell you to. Clear?” Joaquin nodded once “Yes sir”. Rick continued without taking his eyes off of the street and traffic ahead “Today, your main job is looking at street signs. Always know where you are, all the time, and the direction you’re going in. Nothing worse than hearing an Officer Needs Help call go out from some idiot that doesn’t know where the hell he is... Check that, the only thing worse is being that idiot” Joaquin nodded again, pausing to re-check his tie had stayed clipped to his collar, while the boost his ego had received flatlined “Understood sir” was all he could muster, before he began looking out the window for street signs.
“Your appearance is something else you need to be conscious of” Rick began, changing subjects without skipping a beat “You ever hear the phrase, ‘look the part, be the part’?” Joaquin glanced at Rick in the driver’s seat before resuming his never ending search for street lights as the patrol car rolled further south in the gradually thinning traffic “It’s simple. If your uniform looks like shit, if you look like a shitbag, you’re gonna get treated like one. The gang members out here, the convicted felons that’ve been to prison, the career criminals, the O.Gs., they’ll see a lazy cop with a uniform that looks like shit, and they’ll target him. The lazy guy that doesn’t stay in shape, doesn’t look after himself, his appearance or his uniform. He’s an easy target, he’s not gonna be paying attention to everything that’s going on around him, his officer safety’s not gonna be anywhere near as sharp as the guy who’s clean cut and squared away. He just throws on his uniform every day, punches the clock and goes home. These‘re predators” Rick paused his monologue, keeping his eyes on the street while turning the black and white patrol car off of the main boulevard and onto a side street, Joaquin caught the street sign and made a mental note. ‘Forum Drive’.
Rick slowed the patrol car to a more smooth speed, his head shifted into a swivel before he continued his soliloquy with a hint of a Southerner’s twang in his voice. “They look for the easy prey. The kid with his MP3 player jammed into both ears so he can’t hear what’s going on around him. The woman going through her purse and walking down the street. The guy carrying something down the street staring off into la-la land, not paying attention. They’re the easy targets. The same applies to cops. Just because you got that shiny badge and gun on you, doesn’t make you invincible. If you slack off, look like shit or just act plain stupid, you’re gonna get hurt out here” Another silence followed as the black and white crawled down the residential street at 20 miles an hour. “Just sit back and observe today, we’ll get you comfortable with the radio. Where are we?” The question jolted Joaquin’s brain for a split second “Uh, Forum” he responded, almost uncertainly “Great, what cross street?” Silence “Boot, I gave you one job” If I get shot in the head and you don’t know where we’re at, we’re both fucked. The street we’re on, and the closest cross street. Those two things’ll save your life” Joaquin nodded, resuming his continuous search for street signs. “What direction are we going?’ ‘Fuck!’ Perez thought to himself.
That night, Perez lay in bed and stared up at the ceiling, wide awake. After the third hour of no sleep, he sat up and slid out of the bed, pausing by the table in the corner of his childhood bedroom to re-check his war bag pre-packed for the following day. The previous night’s fear had been derived from the possibility of forgetting something important, tonight’s had been downsizing everything the bag held to the essentials. Joaquin walked out to the kitchen, only slowing down to creep past the closed door of the master bedroom. Joaquin pulled the refrigerator door open and stared blankly at the contents of the shelves, leftovers, pre-packaged lunches, vegetables. He pulled a bottle of orange juice out of the fridge door before kicking it closed, pouring himself a glass by the sink. The only light in the room came through the window in front of the sink, bathing the tiled floor and countertops in a faint off-white light, slashed vertically by the shadows of the bars screwed down over the window.
Joaquin’s thoughts drifted from street signs to taking reports from citizens, ‘Oh well. At least I don’t have the language barrier fucking me up as well’. Part of the academy had included basic conversational Spanish; passing this component was essential to being able to work effectively in the city due to the heavy Spanish speaking population. Some of Joaquin’s former classmates had never needed to learn the language before entering the police department, making him and others like him who had grown up in a Spanish speaking home environment popular people. He snickered faintly between sips from the glass at a memory of another recruit listening to Spanish mixes of popular Cypress Hill songs, the English versions known the world over, to better his grasp on the language. A case of if it works, it’s not stupid. The memory prompted Joaquin to walk back to his room and dig through his gym bag stashed in the closet, digging out an iPod Nano he bought from another recruit in the academy. The slim iPod had the chord of the EarPods wrapped tightly around its bright metallic-blue case. Joaquin put his glass down on the table by his war bag and sat down in a wooden chair positioned alongside the door and opposite the bedroom window, this one devoid of bars. Perez unwound the AirPods from the iPod and slipped an AirPod into each ear, turning the device on and cycling the display through to the ‘Artists’ menu, selecting ‘Cypress Hill’ under ‘C’ before hitting ‘Play’ and ‘Shuffle’. A smirk creased his lips as the first song began playing at a moderate volume, Cypress Hill - Pigs.
The black and white pushed through the evening traffic. Perez’s eyes wandered between street signs, other cars on the road and the data terminal shrouding part of his left leg. The call log on screen was gradually filling up with traffic incidents. Joaquin began scrolling through the list, skimming the abbreviated situation reports keyed by dispatchers for each incident. Traffic Collisions, written as ‘TC’, took up a quarter of the screen. ‘TC’, ‘TC’, ‘TC w/ INJ’. Joaquin looked up from the screen to Rick, who had begun turning the car through an intersection. “Sir?” Opened Perez, pausing to look up at the street sign. “We’ve barely cut any citations since I started. The Sergeant was acting like we need to be writing every watch...” Rick side eyed Perez with a stone face of minimal interest “Is there a question in there, boot?” “Sir - do we need to cut citations for speeding?” Rick sighed as the patrol car crawled up on another grid lock of traffic, replying while scanning the cars surrounding the black and white, the drivers of which were trying not to look at the marked police car. “You ever go five or ten over the speed limit on your way to or from work?” “Sometimes” Rick nodded, flipping the sun visor above his forehead down and out. “Remember the oath you took?” Perez nodded his head, slower, sensing a lecture coming his way. “Remember the part about staying true to the Constitution?” “Yeah...” He knew he’d done it now. “Who are we?” Rick posed the potentially rhetorical question after looking over at Perez for a solid ten seconds “The police” Joaquin responded, almost unsure of himself. “Right. The police, the government. And what’s government bound by?” “The Constitution” “What’s government’s first duty, accordin’ to the constitution?”
The public school system had stopped teaching Civics long before Joaquin had been a student. Silence briefly filled the car, leaving the sound of Los Santos traffic to fill the void. “Protecting the people, from all enemies, domestic and foreign” Rick answered the question for him, accelerating through an intersection after a traffic light changed to green. “Would you like it if some asshole wrote you up for doing that five or ten over, when all you’re doing is going to or from work?” Perez shook his head, followed by his own eyes drifting across the other metal boxes on wheels turning Adams Apple Boulevard into a parking lot.
“Now say you see some gang banger riding down the street, someone you know for a fact is a bad guy or has that ‘I’m a gang member’ sign around his neck...” Rick paused mid sentence, side eyeing the 21 year old fresh face in the passenger seat, gauging his reaction before pressing on, becoming more animated with that hint of Texas in his voice growing more prominent. “If he’s going five or ten over, number one he’s fair game - he’s not on his way to work to take care of his family, pay his taxes and mind his own business. Number two, he’s the type of predatory asshole that targets and exploits those good people that obey the law and go to work every day. Why do I wanna spend my day writing Johnny Citizen a ticket, driving up the cost of his in-sure-acne-“ Rick’s accent had converted completely by now “-for five or ten over on his way to work? He’s the guy we, the government, the cops, are supposed to protect. I’m gonna spend my day stopping that bad guy, runnin’ his name, checkin’ him for warrants, inconveniencin’ his ass with the petty bullshit when I don’t have a real call to get to” Question answered, sort of, but Rick wasn’t done. “Besides that” He continued, nudging the patrol car inch by inch up to the next intersection. “A lot of traffic cops are pussies. They don’t want a hot shot or a code three call, they wanna stop the innocent people that won’t put up a fight or argue, write them tickets, head to the donut shop, drink coffee, then go write more tickets to more innocent people while gettin’ paid tax payer money to serve and protect. If you learn one thing today, Boot, felony arrests over petty bullshit” Perez nodded frantically and wished for the awkward silence to return.
The black and white patrol car rolled down the right lane of the boulevard, hooking a sharp turn up and into the parking lot of a gas station partially sheltered from the sun by the Olympic Freeway towering overhead to the north. The overpass ran east to west and divided downtown from the south side, affectionately known by locals as ‘South Central’, despite its official name being changed by the city to ‘South Los Santos’ in 2003, because of the stigma associated with the former. Rick threw the car into park after stopping alongside a pump. “Fill it up” He ordered to Perez before hauling himself up and out of the driver’s seat, stepping firmly and yet briskly around the front of the patrol car and into the convenience store, making a B-Line for the bathroom.
Joaquin stepped out from the passenger seat at about the same time, exchanging nods and greetings with the gas station attendant. “How’s it going?” “Just fine, bro. Usual?” Perez nodded and stepped around to the trunk of the patrol car, bracing his lower back against the trunk above the rear license plate, trying to stretch himself out in spite the uncomfortable Kevlar vest under his uniform shirt restricting some of his movement. Rick walked back out from the convenience store, catching the eyes of the gas station attendant as he walked briskly back up to Joaquin. “Head inside, get us some coffee” Joaquin nodded and pushed himself off the black and white, walking inside and filling two paper lined cups with coffee, milk and sugar at the self service counter, pausing briefly at the counter to pay. The radio on his duty belt buzzed into life with a single electronic bleep, followed by a female dispatcher’s speedy verbal broadcast “Two George Fifteen, ambulance shooting. 700 block Forum Drive and Carson. One male down. Code 3 incident. 15-33”. The address was less than 2 miles away. Perez pulled the loose change out from a back pocket and set it down on the counter by the clerk a little harder than he meant to, turning towards the door with an about-face and speed walking back out of the store to the black and white, in time to see Rick disappearing below the white roof into the driver’s seat. The radio in the patrol car buzzed with the occasional broadcast from other units, advising they were responding to the shooting.
Joaquin crossed the gap between the gas pumps and the front door of the store, spilling small droplets of coffee from the two containers in the tray before dropping himself into the passenger seat, reaching for the radio mic before pulling the door completely closed. The V8 engine in the black and white roared as Rick gunned the car out from the gas station and into the afternoon traffic, activating the overhead lights and siren with one hand. “Two Adam Thirteen, show us responding on Ambulance shooting”. The black and white slowed at an intersection ahead, Perez glanced across the windshield at the traffic hesitantly approaching the intersection, half-yelling “Clear!” Over the noise of the siren, Rick accelerated through the intersection and slid through the traffic on the opposite side, Joaquin looked down briefly to seat the coffee containers safely inside the cup holders before returning his attention to the street ahead. The officers already at the scene of the shooting began relaying information over the radio, thick with the chaotic background noise of a shooting shortly after schools had let out. “Two George Fifteen, suspect a male Hispanic, last seen running south on Carson from Forum” The patrol car driven by Rick cleared another intersection before hooking a harsh right onto Forum Drive from Strawberry Avenue, updates continued coming in from the radio. “Two George Twelve, code six on Forum Drive and Carson. Suspect vehicle in the shooting is gonna be a white sedan, older model. Suspect a male Hispanic. No further. KMA”
Rick slowed the the patrol car as they approached the corner of Forum Drive and Carson Avenue, shutting the siren off before pulling to the curb 30 yards from the congested crime scene ahead. Rick parked the black and white behind a dark blue Oldsmobile, leaving a gap of 4-5 feet between the front of the patrol car and the rear of the Oldsmobile. Rick looked across at Joaquin as they both exited the patrol car, Joaquin already keying his radio and advising their arrival. “Two Adam Thirteen, code six at Forum and Carson”. Rick crossed the front of the patrol car onto the sidewalk, gesturing back to the space with his left hand. “Always leave a space like that, so you have enough room to turn and get out if you need to, even if it means parkin’ on the sidewalk. Park behind someone else if you can, so some other asshole doesn’t park in front of you and block you in just to fuck with you”. Joaquin nodded and gave the customary “Yes sir” response. The duo closed on the crowd of citizens ahead, working their way through the growing mass of 30-40 people emerging from the project buildings on every corner of the intersection ahead.
As Joaquin and Rick got past one part of the crowd, Joaquin’s eyes fell on a smeared pool of blood on the cracked sidewalk, some of which had run down the pavement and trickled into the gutter, thinning out as it ran down the street. The crowd at the corner was humming with chatter and speculation, Joaquin caught parts of different conversations. The blood was between the corner and the alley that ran behind the closest apartment block, adorned with the numbers “700” in peeling black paint. The corner was dotted with uniformed Gang Officers, running under the ‘George’ callsign. Some were mingling in the crowd trying to talk to people, others were standing back watching the slow-passing traffic on Carson Avenue, others were watching the crowd while those left ran a minimal amount of tape around the blood strewn concrete. Rick approached the lead Gang Officer, a male Hispanic in his 30s by the name of Andres Garcia. The two exchanged casual greetings before Garcia began to fill Rick, and Perez in on the sparse details. “Vic’s a kid, attends Davis High. No gang affiliation we know of. Lives down the street, walking home, some ese steps up to him, says somethin’, shoots him, takes off around the corner on Carson. Someone else sees him jump into a white sedan, says it looked old. That’s all we’ve got so far. We’ve heard he might’ve been Eighteenth Street, but who knows for sure. FD took’m to Davis Med” Rick nodded and posed a single question “This block still Rollin 60s, or somebody else top dog here now?’ Garcia replied while scanning a line of onlookers walking out of an alley to the south to join the crowd of gawkers “Still Sixties”.
Joaquin pulled his notepad out from the breast pocket beneath his badge and began furiously scratching notes onto the lined paper underneath their time of arrival. He slid both the notepad and pen back into his left breast pocket before breaking off with Rick from the brief conversation and approaching the crowd, looking for potential witnesses. His ways wandered up over the windows in the projects overlooking the street, the curtains were drawn on every single one. “Did you see anything?” Joaquin asked a black lady in a yellow dress, she shook her head and immediately looked away from him. Rick kept moving sideways, passing behind Perez and starting down the alley towards one of the two entry points to the apartment complex. Rick stepped through the steel mesh covered metal barred door into the complex with Perez trailing behind him. Joaquin’s eyes darted around the ground floor and up to the balcony on the opposite side of the 4-sided courtyard, he saw windows and curtains closing. The hair stood up on the back of Perez’s neck, his heart rate increased somewhat. He felt uneasy and exposed. This was not a friendly environment, this was not a place he was familiar with. “I don’t like this” he finally said to Rick as they approached the first door on the side of the project closest to the crime scene on Forum Drive. Rick looked back at Joaquin with the same stone face he’d had when scanning the crowd. “Good” He responded, the sunglasses covering both both of his eyes lending him an even more stone-like demeanor. “This is their house, we’re just passing through. You know how a neighborhood like this is” Joaquin looked back around the courtyard, feeling some slight reassurance when his right hand came down onto the Glock 22 in the holster on his right hip.
Rick stepped to the left side of the apartment door and knocked with the heel of a closed fist, Joaquin stood on the right side of the door, looking between the doorway and the rest of the apartment complex. The door was opened ajar by a young black lady in her 20s, Joaquin’s eyes flew around to the door and locked on the wide eyes peering back out at him, he couldn’t see her hands. Rick spoke first “Ma’am, we had a shooting outside on the street. I see your apartment looks out over the corner... Did you see or hear anything?” The eyes and head behind the door shook back and forth ‘no’. Rick seemed to be anticipating this response, launching the guilt trip as if on cue. “A young boy was shot, ma’am. His mother can’t be consoled and won’t stop screaming his name. If you saw something...” The eyes shook back and forth again before the door was pushed closed with a muffled “No”. Rick moved on to the next door, Joaquin followed, the duo adopted the same positioning on either side of the door and Rick hammered the door with the heel of his closed fist.
Five hours later.
A single electronic beep pierced the atmosphere inside the minimally lit front seat of the patrol car, the female dispatcher’s voice quickly followed the electronic tone. “Two George Fourteen, ambulance shooting. 1019 Grove and Covenant. Two males down, suspect vehicle fleeing eastbound on Covenant, black late model SUV. No further. Code 3 incident 20-22” Rick whirled the steering wheel around to the right, accelerating out from behind the stationary car stopped at a red light ahead. Joaquin hurriedly activated the overhead lights and siren, throwing Rick a ‘What the Hell?!’ look while the black and white powered through the intersection and along the shoulder of the Boulevard. “Eighteenth Street. Retaliation” Rick stated in a monotone; bordering on annoyance with the unasked question.
The radio clogged with voices while Rick dodged evening traffic, the behavior of some drivers enraging both Rick and Joaquin. Two George units totalling four Gang Officers had arrived at the shooting first, one of the officers broadcasting both their own and the other unit’s arrival before the same officer’s voice came back on the radio, sounding much more amped up, requesting EMS step up their response and a supervisor. Meanwhile, Rick’s grip on the steering wheel tightened while he tried to move around a minivan and city Water and Power truck, eventually speeding past both vehicles when the shoulder of the road opened up.
The patrol car rolled up onto Covenant Avenue, stopping at the edge of a small swarm of black and white patrol cars on the wrong side of the road. The street was bathed in a red-blue-purple haze from the red and blue LEDs in the overhead lights of the police cars and an ambulance crowding the street. Rick and Perez stepped out from the black and white and started down the sidewalk, passing several residents standing silently in their front yards. Perez slid his notebook and pen out from his shirt pocket beneath his badge and looked over to his right, locking eyes with a shirtless black man in his 20s standing outside a house, flanked by two lawn chairs and a bench press. The two exchanged stares for a moment before Joaquin passed a scrawny tree, sweeping the man from his sight. Rick and Perez approached the center of the loose chaos on the street, the front yard of one of the house 2nd from the corner. The crime scene was awash with uniforms, mostly police officers with a few citizens sprinkled in.
Joaquin trailed behind Rick, passing an ambulance parked alongside the curb and reaching the edge of the front yard. Garcia, the same Gang Officer was standing on an overgrown patch of grass surrounded by broken concrete in the front yard, staring at the scene before him. The body of a heavyset young boy, maybe 12 or 13, Perez guessed, was sprawled on his back on the pavement in front of the house, head facing the street. Joaquin stepped closer to the boy, away from Rick who approached Garcia in the front yard. With two steps toward the body, a gaping hole the size of a golf ball where the boy’s right eye should have been revealed itself to Perez; the emergency lights on the street continually reflecting in the thin crimson tentacles running down the side of the boy’s face. The blood on the concrete had pooled inside a broken crack in the sidewalk.
Joaquin looked away, turning slowly back toward Rick and Garcia in the front yard with a slight mental urge pulling his eyes back. He stepped toward Rick and Garcia with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach, quickly subsiding to be replaced by an emotional strain in his chest. Joaquin approached his Training Officer and the Gang Officer in silence, still holding the notebook in his left hand. Rick looked from Garcia to Perez, pausing mid conversation as if sizing him up before recounting part of the conversation. “Kid was shot walking to the store with his brother” Rick stated “Don’t have much more than that. Nobody saw anything...” He let that last part of the sentence hang in the air. The anguish in Joaquin’s chest slowly turned to anger. Nobody saw anything even when they were right outside, like they were every night, when it happened. Nobody ever saw anything because they had no desire to be the next casualty crying tears of blood into cracked pavement.
Five minutes later, Perez and Rick were walking down the sidewalk and street, staggered with six feet between them, flashlights in hand, sweeping the pavement with the beams of light for shell casings, discarded weapons and anything else that looked as if it might be relevant, meanwhile one of the paramedics threw a white cover, commonly known as a ‘dead man’s blanket’ over the body. Joaquin paused by a dumpster and pushed the lid up, sweeping the barren filth-coated steel interior with the flashlight. Empty, apart from the odd empty beer bottle and diaper that had likely been stuck to the bottom of that dumpster since the black panthers had marched through south central. “Empty” Joaquin stated, moving away from the dumpster with a drone-like step. He couldn’t keep that dead face out of his head. One side looked emptily surprised, the left eye open staring off into the ether with the mouth slightly agape, the other devoid of life.
Sleep did not come, despite the mental fatigue making the plot to a Family Guy episode a struggle to follow. Joaquin got up from the couch and walked out into the back yard. The crisp early morning air combined with smog hit Joaquin in the face and shoulders, the rest of his body seemed oblivious under the wife beater and sweat pants. He walked out onto what grass they had in the rear yard, turned to face the house and dropped onto his hands and knees in the push-up position. Perez held himself up for three seconds before slowly cranking out push up repetitions until the muscles in his arms were pumped full of blood and signalling no more. He held himself up in that position, looking up from the patchy grass and dirt at the concrete porch and the year door. Perez let himself drop to the ground before standing back up, walking inside and back up to his room.
Joaquin’s head hit the pillow, his eyes wandered back over to the skirting linking the ceiling with the opposite wall, still plastered with posters from his younger years. He pulled his iPod off the nightstand and popped an EarPod into his left ear, blindly tapping the play button and shaking the device to trigger a shuffle of songs. ‘Don Omar - Pobre Diabla’ began playing faintly in his left ear.
Joaquin’s eyes eventually dropped onto the first pin-up picture, a tear-out Halo 2 poster from an old magazine. A memory from 10 years prior materialised in his brain, he and his two step brothers arguing in the boxing gym Joaquin had spent a large part of his adolescence in, over who would get to play the game first when they got home. They decided to settle it in the ring sparring; Joaquin’s step brother David won the coin toss and the contest, mainly because he was taller and had a fast right. Joaquin’s heart rate began to decline, gradually in the background. ‘When was that?’ He began to wonder, figuring early 2000s, eventually narrowing the year to 2005, when he had to be 15 or 16, his older step brother was at least 17 his younger step brother Tomas was 12 or 13, leading his mind back to the south side, and the kid sprawled on the sidewalk missing half of his face. Perez sighed, and dialed the volume up on the iPod before shutting his eyes.
Perez sipped at the Dunkin Donuts coffee in his left hand, staring out of the passenger window of the patrol car as the black and white rolled north along the avenue overlooking the LS River from the west. The “river” was a barren concrete waterway that ran north to south through the eastern side of the city. The sun had been beating down since it rose that morning, the temperature was already at 85 degrees and climbing. ‘Thank fuck I’m in short sleeves’ Perez thought to himself. “Any available Mission Row unit” Began a female dispatcher, momentarily pausing. A sure sign of a ‘garbage call’ - something nobody, especially anyone with over 2 years on the street wanted. “Report of strong arm robbery. Meet the victim at Little Bighorn and Swiss. PR says suspect snatched her purse and ran into a homeless camp under the San Andreas Avenue overpass. 13-23. Code two incident. Unit to handle identify” Joaquin picked up the radio mic while Rick watched helplessly. “Two Adam Thirteen, show us handling” Perez sat the radio mic back into the cradle and reclined back into the passenger seat, taking a generous sip of his coffee to hide the evil smile that had crept onto his face. Any day he made his FTO uncomfortable was a good day. Rick silently steamed as he began piloting the black and white out from the south side and toward the downtown area, commonly known as ‘Skid Row’, in contrast to the official name of Textile City.
The patrol car rolled to a slow stop on Swiss, pedestrians were far and few between. Either workers avoiding eye contact with Joaquin as he stepped out of the patrol car onto the sidewalk with the odd crackhead in the mix. Joaquin pulled the radio from his belt and keyed the mic while scanning the crowd for the complainant “Two Adam Thirteen, code six at Swiss and Little Bighorn” The complainant made herself known by walking across the street from the bus station. A middle aged Asian lady with short hair, dressed in a City Transit Worker’s uniform. “Officar...?” She addressed Rick in a thick accent from halfway across the street.
“How can we help you, ma’am?” The phrase rolled off of Rick’s tongue, the same exact way Joaquin had heard it multiple times every day, as if someone had hit play on a well practised recording. “This man, he stole my purse. Had my wallet, keys, cellphone, ID...” began the lady, while Rick lead her around to the sidewalk on the passenger side of the black and white. “Was it just one person that took your bag, ma’am?” Asked Rick, his face reflecting genuine concern and interest in the woman’s problem. She nodded “One, yes” Perez slid his notebook and pen out and began taking notes after a cursory glance at his watch, recording the time of contact. “He was big, smell reelly bad” Rick nodded once more, leaning in somewhat. “Big hair” Continued the woman, miming frizzy, overgrown hair and a beard with both of her hands. “Was he white, black...?” Rick asked, all the while Joaquin continued writing, while the lady shook her head, pointing at Joaquin “Like him” She lowered her hand. “Okay, so he was Hispanic...” Rick nodded, pausing as if digesting information on a rather serious issue, before prompting her further with his hands. “He was wearing jacket, like ball player, brown pants. Smell really bad. Letters on back” She drew an ‘NY’ in the air with her index finger. The story of the snatch and grab came in bits and pieces. Rick nodded and Joaquin wrote. The woman had been walking out of the bus station to a low rent diner across the street on her lunch break, picked up on the stench of a homeless man that hadn’t bathed for several weeks and looked around in time to see the man she described snatch her bag and run off down an alleyway. She followed him for the entire block, only stopping after watching the jacket with the Yankees logo embroidered on the back in a yellow-stained white disappear into a homeless encampment underneath the looping six lane overpass.
Perez took the woman’s information and a list of the stolen items down before telling her to go back to work. “Someone will be in contact with you if we find anything, okay?” “How? He took phone?”Joaquin raised an eyebrow, looking back up at Rick who had reverted to his blank stone face. Joaquin looked back at the woman and turned back a page in his notebook. “This is the number of the phone he took, yes?” He asked, pointing to the ten digits written in his semi-legible handwriting. The woman nodded, looking back up to Joaquin from the notepad. “Okay. Ma’am, I need you to go back to work, someone will be in contact with you. We’ll go try and find your things. Okay?” The woman nodded with a hint of smile, before profusely thanking Perez and Rick both.
Perez and Rick started back to the patrol car, Rick paused to hand the keys across to Perez, who had only driven the car a handful of times. “You’re behind the wheel” Rick stated, dropping himself into the passenger seat. Joaquin’s fingers closed around the keys, he paused in the street by the back door of the black and white, pondering what fresh hell lay on the other side of that car door. Perez pulled the door closed and put the keys in the ignition, starting the patrol car and pulling away from the curb into the light traffic. Perez turned the patrol car onto Little Bighorn Avenue and drove south at a slow crawl. The San Andreas Avenue overpass and bridge loomed ahead. “You got yourself into this... You clean it up” Said Rick from the passenger seat. Perez nodded, realising he was right. “I know...” The lecture continued, regardless “Now we’re gonna be tied up on this, instead of being back out on the street. The Sergeant’s gonna come lookin’ for us eventually, thinking we’re milking the call” Perez tried to tune Rick out as the patrol car rolled into the dark shadow cast by the overpass, his eyes moved from the street ahead to the homeless village beneath the bridge, largely populated by tents, old mattresses and cardboard shelters linked to the side of shopping carts, jammed full of property and what most would consider garbage. The men that sat in the makeshift shantytown all shared one thing in common, a disheveled look, leather-like skin, dull milky eyes and untamed facial hair blowing out in every direction.
The stench crept into Perez’s nostrils as he emerged from the police vehicle, growing stronger as he closed the door and stepped around the front of the black and white onto the sidewalk. Rick stood by the passenger side of the patrol car, pulling a set of latex gloves on, followed by thicker leather duty gloves with kevlar lining the palm. “Put your gloves on, two pairs” Rick advised without taking his eyes off the encampment, Joaquin complied and began slithering his hands into blue latex gloves while Rick keyed his radio mic. “Two Adam Thirteen, code six on Little Bighorn under the San Andreas overpass. Request one for cover” A dispatcher responded in the affirmative, another unit broadcast they were en route. Perez slid his latex covered hands inside his newer and stiffer duty gloves and looked over at Rick, who began their incursion into the shantytown, crushing an empty glass vial with his shoe after two steps off of the sidewalk. “Watch the hands, look for needles. Don’t put your hands anywhere you can’t see” Came Rick’s voice from in front “Yes sir” replied Perez, his heart rate slowly starting to increase.
The two uniforms moved through the shantytown, passing unshaven and unkempt men with poor hygiene on both sides. Joaquin’s eyes wandered over a 90 lb man’s arms, taking in a railroad track’s worth of track marks, or injection sights that ran along both of his arms. The junkie himself seemed quite peaceful, sleeping on what looked like a communal mattress between two old and battered tents. The stench was overwhelming Perez’s sense of smell. He and Rick pulled flashlights and began checking inside the cardboard shelters erected around shopping carts and looking behind tarps draped around old appliances to create a makeshift tent. Joaquin looked into one tent and saw two homeless men, one of whom was sitting upright on the ground, pants around ankles, while his companion knelt alongside, bent over at the waist with his head bobbing up and down over the first man’s crotch. Joaquin pulled away from the tent, eyes wide and fighting the urge to gag. He pressed on, catching up to Rick, praying whatever was behind door number two wouldn’t be burned into his retinas for all eternity. He caught up to Rick, who had traversed through most of the makeshift village to the far left edge of the overpass,
“You see anyone wearing a shitty Yankees jacket?” Rick asked in a half whisper, scanning the encampment from the periphery. Joaquin shook his head, as a second black and white pulled in behind their own patrol car. “2 Adam 15 code six on 2 Adam 13” came through in stereo on both Rick’s and Joaquin’s radios, Joaquin hurriedly dialed the volume down. Two uniformed figures emerged from the front seat of the second black and white, stepping onto the sidewalk. Joaquin saw both uniforms pulling gloves on. The sound of somebody stirring and groaning irrationally. Perez stepped sideways, killing an empty vial with his shoe, passing a partially collapsed tent, revealing another communal mattress with a rake-thin man in the fetal position, convulsing and grunting sporadically. ‘Like a spider on meth’ thought Perez. The sporadic insect-like movement of the man’s arms was an inherently creepy sight to watch. Another bearded face poked out from a nearby tent, the bloodshot eyes in that face swivelled between the convulsing spider of a man and the dumbfounded 20-something in a uniform standing over him. “Rodney King!” The bearded man screeched before receding back into the tent. Joaquin turned and walked the five steps back to Rick, who was looking in his direction with mild concern, otherwise unmoved. “Making friends?” “Oh yeah...” Joaquin’s face said it all.
“So we done here?” Asked Rick, looking over from the sea of despair and depravity to Joaquin. “Uh...” A thought suddenly hit him. Perez slid his notebook and cellphone out, returning to the previously visited page and began dialing the woman’s cellphone number before pocketing the notebook. A generic ringtone echoed off of the low-hanging overpass in the mass of tents and bodies ahead, Perez moved forward, honing in on the sound with the beam of his flashlight. He reached a faded teal blue tent, paused and redialled the stolen cellphone. The ringtone echoed out from the tent. Rick looked back over at the two uniforms standing at the perimeter of the shantytown, waving both over. Joaquin glanced back at Rick, pocketing his own phone and sliding the telescopic expendable baton out from the cylindrical pouch on his belt. He deployed the baton to its maximum extent and used it to peel the tent open. An overpowering stench of filth hit Joaquin in the face from the inside of the tent.
The man lying on his side on the floor of the tent was drooling heavily, barely breathing with one arm kinked and behind his back, the other sprawled out in front of him. The man’s pupils looked like tiny pin pricks in the beam of Joaquin’s flashlight. Perez reached into the tent with the baton, hooking the man’s kinked elbow with the end of his baton and tugging the man’s other hand out into view. Rick’s gloved hand pulled the tent open wider, Perez glanced back at Rick to see Rick’s Beretta 92fs in his free hand at what his old academy instructors called the ‘low ready’ position. Perez poked the comatose homeless man with the point of the baton, prodding him firmly in the chest. “He’s got the nods, ‘prolly just shot up” Joaquin stated before he finally gagged on the stench and wretched, coughing hard away from the tent. “Motherfucker, he stinks” Rick wiped his nose with his forearm before pulling his radio from the carrier on his belt and keying the mic. “Two Adam Thirteen, request an RA unit to our location. Narcan required”. Perez crawled back into the tent after stealing a few seconds of fresh air, pulling the man’s hands behind his back and cuffing them while trying to hold his breath. During the most disgusting body search of his entire career thus far, he found the needle protruding from a vein in the junkie’s foot. After carefully removing the needle from the tent and handing it off to one of the other uniforms, Perez started probing around the piled clothes, empty cups and food stained boxes and other trash strewn around the tent. Eventually, he discovered a woman’s handbag and another ‘junkie kit’ shrouded in a knockoff Yankees jacket and a makeshift table constructed from a folded cardboard box. Perez fished the handbag out from the mess by the strap with the baton, depositing it outside the tent by Rick’s feet.
The two others uniforms had approached the tent after wading through the sea of tents, mattresses and shopping carts, one of whom, another young clean cut Police Officer I Joaquin had been to the academy with stuck his head around the corner and peered into the tent, recoiling at the stench emanating from the suspect. “Fuck me! You sick motherfucker, Perez!” Joaquin forced a laugh through a cough, stepping out of the tent and inhaling deeply. “Pussy” He spat back at his former academy classmate through a momentary grin before bending over and dry heaving. Rick and the other FTO exchanged tired glances and eye rolls.
EMS arrived after a five minute wait and shot the comatose junkie full of narcan. “Get ready, he’ll probably wanna fight when he comes to” Rick had warned. The sleeping hype woke up immediately after the foreign substance killed the opiates in his system, the paramedic instinctively jumped backwards and headed back for the ambulance he and his partner had arrived in. The four uniforms laid gloved hands on the newly sober suspect and hauled him out of the tent. Rick snatched hold of the hype’s overgrown and filthy hair, twisting it into a tight knot in his glove and forcing the man’s head down while Joaquin held his cuffed wrists up. They four of them walked the man back through the sea of despair, Joaquin thought he saw their new prisoner looking at another junkie passed out on a filthy mattress, dead to the world under the influence of his favorite opiate the same way a lonely person looks at a happy couple, as they walked him past.
The sun was dropping below the horizon by the time Joaquin accelerated out of the secure rear lot of Mission Row Division. He circled the block and slowed to a stop at the foot of the police station’s front steps. He and Rick had spent the last 3 hours booking the suspect and typing reports, only stopping for refills of coffee. Rick emerged from the lobby of the police station thirty seconds later, dropping into the passenger seat alongside Joaquin before sliding his wireframe sunglasses onto his face. “Let’s go, I’m starving” Perez hit the accelerator and took the corner a little faster than he needed to. Perez keyed the radio mic while accelerating down a side street “Two Adam Thirteen, clear from division” The dispatcher responded while Perez slid the radio mic back into the cradle. “I don’t know, I kinda lost my appetite after that” replied Perez, thirty seconds late. “That’ll pass” Rick replied as Joaquin braked behind numerous other cars waiting at a red light. “You gotta eat, small meals at least. Keep you awake, keep you focused. Small meals too, you eat a huge lunch then have to fight some drugged up asshole...” He trailed off, staring hard at a vehicle two cars ahead in the dusk traffic. “Hold on” Rick slid out of the passenger seat and walked between the two lanes of stationary traffic, stopping at a white four door two cars ahead of the black and white. He knocked on the driver's window, prompting the silhouette of the driver to spring upright in the their seat. Joaquin watched, perplexed as Rick spoke briefly with the driver. His confusion grew even more so, as the driver exited his car, seemingly at Rick’s direction. The driver walked back down the street for about 3 feet, picked up an empty soda can and walked back to his car while Rick scowled at him from his open door.
Perez was laughing by the time the citizen sheepishly got back into his car, to have Rick unceremoniously close the door for him and start walking back to the black and white. Rick climbed back into the passenger seat alongside Perez and threw his forearm on top of the window sill. “Too good to use the trash can? Fuck you” He remarked. “Anyway, small meals” Another lecture. ‘Greaaat’ Joaquin thought. “You eat a large meal at lunch, then you go fight some drugged up asshole on crack. All the blood’s gonna be down at your stomach helping you digest that large meal, not everywhere else where you need it. Puts you behind the power curve. So eat small meals” “Yes sir”. The light changed to green, Perez nudged the accelerator and rolled the car through the intersection, heading south towards the Olympic Freeway.
Perez pulled the patrol car in to the parking lot of a diner popular among cops that worked in the division after twenty minutes of stop and go traffic. Rick climbed out of the black and white, heading for the door while Joaquin backed the car into a parking space. “Make sure you take the keys out of the ignition” Laughed Rick from halfway to the front door. Perez locked the handbrake into place after parking and pulled himself out of the car, tossing the door closed. He walked slowly to the front of the black and white, breathing in deeply and surveying the boulevard of traffic against that south-central backdrop and orange sunset. He had never appreciated that smoggy air more.
“Where do you wanna eat?” Perez asked Rick, who sat in the passenger seat, thumbing through his notebook and handwriting a report on a clipboard balanced on his right leg. Joaquin turned the black and white off of the residential street back onto Carson Avenue, one of the main roads on the south side that ran east to west. “Street food... I’m thinking tacos” Joaquin nodded, scanning the midday traffic ahead through his sunglasses. “Okay, I’m picking the spot this time though” Rick looked up from his notebook and report to Perez with an expression of fatherly disapproval. ”You can barely cut a citation without stepping on your meat. Think you can pull off Operation Lunch Procurement without gettin’ yourself killed?” “Ha-Ha. If I make probation and the thing I’m worst at is writing tickets, I’d be more than okay with that” Rick’s facial expression held before a smirk tugged at his lips “There might just be a glimmering ray of hope for you yet, Boot”. “Don’t get my hopes up” Perez sarcastically replied.
Joaquin pulled into a drug store parking lot, reversing into a space before stepping out of the patrol car into the direct sunlight. He threw the door closed behind him and started toward a yellow concrete structure, a taco stand with a small courtyard of chairs and tables, on the nearby street corner. Perez pulled the radio from his belt and notified the dispatcher of the meal break. “Two Adam Thirteen, show us code seven at Carson and Strawberry”. He lined up with the late lunch crowd of local business employees and residents from one of the government subsidised apartment complexes across four lanes of traffic from, the taco stand. The radio on his belt was steady with traffic from dispatchers and other units, his ears had developed to the point he could idly monitor radio traffic in the background and start actively listening if something important was broadcast.
Joaquin reached the counter and ordered two servings of 6 tacos with beef, frijoles, sour cream, diced tomatoes and cheese. He stood back from the counter after paying for lunch, standing with his back to the wall of the enclosed courtyard, watching the line of customers filing up to the counter until his name was called. He collected the two orders of tacos and coated both in the hottest sauce he could find on the nearby shelf of napkins, cutlery and condiments. He walked back to the patrol car, joining Rick at the trunk, setting his order of tacos down on the black metal exterior. Perez, starving, started chomping on the first taco, taking extra care to avoid spilling any of the taco’s fillings or sauce on his uniform. “Something on your mind?” Perez asked, with his mouthful. Rick broke off his hard stare at the projects across the street and turned briefly to pick one of the tacos out from the basket on the trunk. “Just thinkin’” he responded, taking a large bite out of the taco, before asking “You get any drinks?” Joaquin shook his head. “You still have a lot to learn, Boot” Joaquin bit his tongue on the smart ass response, opting to start on the third taco in his order instead.
The black and white rolled out from the parking lot and back into the afternoon traffic, after Perez and Rick had dumped the disposable containers their lunch had been served in into a trashcan. Joaquin keyed the patrol car’s radio mic and cleared their unit from lunch. “You pay much attention to the election this year?” Rick asked, turning back to putting the finishing touches on his handwritten narrative while Joaquin accelerated through the lighter traffic on Carson Avenue. “No, why? All my time was focused on this” Perez replied, nodding downward to signify the uniform and patrol car. Rick scratched off a signature on the report and started disassembling his improvised office. “Normally?” Joaquin shook his head again. “I don’t like politics, don’t have time for it right now either” Rick sighed while packing the clipboard and notepad away. “Sooner or later, and it’s gonna be sooner, politics is gonna have time for you”. Joaquin glanced over at Rick before looking back at the road, slowing for a corner. “Well, the last mayor got re-elected. It’s his last term, which means he can do whatever the fuck he wants. Word is, he’s looking at taking a chainsaw to our budget and replacing the Chief if he’s not going to go along with it”.
Joaquin looked over at Rick with obvious concern in his face. “Don’t worry, your job’s fine” Rick quickly reassured Perez “You’re young, and Latino. They’ll look at pushing out older guys, early retirements where they can, forced retirements elsewhere, cut back hard on O-T, scale back the amount of boots on the ground... This shit happens every once in a while” Perez’s head nodded slowly, as he digested the information. “Why though? Why cut P-D’s money? Crime’s just gonna go up” “Yeah, but it’s politics. He funnels that money into something else, like public housing, schools, social services. Pick something, that starts looking better, he uses that as a stepping stone for his next campaign, for the senate or something. The rest of the state doesn’t give a fuck about gang and street crime, it’s been going on for so long now they’re sick of hearing about it. The nightly news barely runs stories about gang murders because it doesn’t sell newspapers, no one gives a fuck” “I knew that much...” Perez added, swinging the patrol car around a tight U-Turn on the boulevard. “But”, Rick continued, “He puts more money into the schools, and the average grades for the city go up... He becomes the education man, cares about the kids, wants to go to Washington to fight for the underprivileged inner city kids everyone else left behind”.
Joaquin nodded his head again, downing a swig from the water bottle stashed in the cup holder. “Got it all figured out, huh?” Rick didn’t answer. Perez kept driving and slowed for an upcoming slip lane, only to jam the brakes on as a silver Escalade pulled out from a concealed alleyway without slowing, narrowly cutting off the patrol car. “Shit” Grunted Perez, flooring the brakes before accelerating up behind the Escalade, activating the overhead lights with his right hand, chirping the siren repeatedly until the SUV pulled over at the curb. Perez keyed the radio mic. “Two Adam Thirteen, traffic on a late model silver Escalade, tinted windows. San Andreas license plate Oscar Romeo Paul, nine six seven. Code six”. Rick sat back in the passenger seat and watched Perez tap the license plate into the onboard computer, bringing up the registered owner’s information. “R-O’s a Clinton Woods... No wants or warrants. Priors for possession and assault” “Okay. Let’s go”. Perez and Rick emerged from each side of the patrol car at around the same time. Joaquin strode up alongside the drivers window, one hand on the Glock holstered by his right hip. He stopped short of the column dividing the SUV’s front and rear seats, Rick stood further back and to the right of the vehicle. All of the windows on the SUV were down. A young black male was seated behind the wheel, Perez recognised him from the license photo on the computer terminal. Clinton’s left hand was on top of the steering wheel, Perez couldn’t see his other hand.
“License, registration and proof of insurance” Perez more stated than asked. “What’d I do?” Clinton asked, lazily. “We can talk about that in a minute. Right now, I need your license, registration and proof of insurance” Joaquin responded in a monotone. Not the first time this scenario had played out. “But what’d I do?’ Clinton asked while looking through the center console of the SUV. “Sir, do you have your license, registration and insurance?” Joaquin asked, his grip tightening on the Glock 22. “Yeah, I got it...” Clinton responded, still digging through the center console. Joaquin observed him impatiently for another five seconds before he’d had enough. “Step out of the car” Clinton looked up from the center console, a shocked look on his face. “But why?” “You keep tellin’ me you got your information, no one takes that long to pull something outta the glove box, dude. I don’t-“ “That ain’ the glove box though” Clinton interrupted “Step out of the car” Joaquin snapped, throwing the driver’s door open with his left hand. “C’mon dude, I wasn’t born last night. You’re stalling” “I’m stalling?” “You’re stalling. Get outta the car” Clinton stepped slowly out from the SUV, Joaquin directed him toward the front of the black and white. “You got any weapons on you?” Clinton looked back at Joaquin, then over at Rick, then back at Joaquin. “No” “Turn around then, gonna pat you down real quick for your safety and mine” Clinton let out a deep sigh before turning around slowly, setting both hands onto the back of his head while glancing around. Joaquin began to pull his gloves on, as Clinton abruptly bolted out into traffic. “Fuck” Perez hissed, dropping his gloves onto the hood of the car and glancing briefly to the left for traffic before sprinting across the boulevard after Clinton. The synthetic leather pouches on his belt thumped against him or rubbed against one another with a characteristic sound with each step.
Perez’s stomach burned faintly as he tore across the boulevard and onto the opposite sidewalk, turning left after Clinton and following. The radio on his belt came alive with Rick’s voice at first, a siren in the background of the broadcast Joaquin heard mirrored behind him. “Two Adam Thirteen, foot pursuit, Innocence Boulevard and Power... Male black, 20s, white and black shirt, blue shorts, white shoes. My partner’s in foot pursuit, westbound on Innocence. Suspect’s tossed somethin’” Perez pushed his feet harder onto the pavement, Clinton briefly turned up ahead before cutting right, into a fenced off courtyard through a gap between the steel fence and concrete building. Perez slid the radio out of the carrier and began broadcasting, breathing heavily, amped on adrenaline, stopping outside the fence. “Two Adam Thirteen, suspect’s running-“ he paused, glancing to his left at a street sign. “North, off Innocence in an alley. Went through a gap in the fence” He shoved the radio back into the carrier, drew the Glock 22 from his holster and pushed himself awkwardly through the gap in the fence, running down a barren concrete alley in the direction he thought was the most logical for somebody running on a whim.
Joaquin slowed his pace to a jog, presenting the Glock at low ready while traversing through the winding alley behind several businesses, pausing briefly to turn his radio down and broadcast his position. A chain link fence rattling further down the alley to his right caught his attention, he began running again, toward the sound. Perez closed on the chain link fence, enclosing a convenience store’s loading dock. The fence was somewhat warped in his structure, likely due to decades of exposure to the west coast sun. Looking around, Joaquin saw some of the grass that had sprouted between the two different foundations of concrete, that on city property in the alley and that on the convenience store’s lot had been flattened. Wishing he hadn’t dropped his gloves, Joaquin tore the chain link fence up with his left hand, sliding awkwardly underneath sideways, pushing the partially rolled fence up with one hand and holding onto his Glock in the other. ‘If this fucker comes out when I’m like this and tries shit, I’m shooting him’ he decided while freeing himself from the fence, getting back up to his feet. Perez paused at the convenience store door to broadcast his position and suspicion before moving into the store, clearing the first corner with the handgun gripped in both hands. Joaquin moved through the small loading and storage area, catching sight of Clinton peeking out into the store itself through a doorway obscured by numerous strands of multi-colored beads hanging from the top of the door. Clinton’s head swivelled around, his eyes locked with Joaquin’s. “Hi there” said Clinton, Perez re-holstered his Glock and bolted straight for him, Clinton tore through the beads into the main store, cramped with shelves full of stock. Perez sprinted through the swinging beads after him, reaching out and grabbing hold of Clinton’s shirt in both hands. The two of them collided with a shelf loaded for bare with groceries and packaged food.
Groceries ranging from boxes of cereal to packets of chips rained down on Perez and Clinton from above. Clinton kept wriggling underneath Perez, kicking his feet trying to get out from underneath him while Perez’s hands clawed for both of Clinton’s arms and wrists. “Stop resisting!” He yelled, eventually punching the struggling Clinton before barking another order, while the clerk screamed something Perez couldn’t understand from the counter. “Give me your fucking hands! Stop resisting!” Perez eventually got his right knee onto Clinton’s back after after punch to his shoulder blades slowed the struggling. Joaquin pulled both of Clinton’s hands behind his back and cuffed him, rummaging over Clinton’s waist and pockets for weapons afterward. Rick and two other uniforms rushed through the front door of the convenience store, stopping at the end of the aisle Joaquin and Clinton had trashed, staring at the mess before walking through the destruction, pulling Clinton and Joaquin off the floor. “You okay?” Rick asked while holding Clinton’s left arm and shoulder. “Fuck no!” Howled Clinton. “Shut up” Rick stated, before looking back over at Joaquin and nodding his head upward. Perez nodded twice, glancing back to survey the damage for himself.
“Two Adam Eighteen, one in custody. Code four at the Innocence Stop’N Go” one of the other uniforms Joaquin barely knew broadcast on his radio. “Why’d he run?” The same uniform asked as the five of them made their way out of the store to the two waiting black and whites parked out front with their overhead lights activated. “Rock” Rick stated with certainty, holding up a single rock of crack cocaine tied off in plastic wrap. “That shit ain’t mine” Clinton protested without even looking, staring off into the distance at the SUV he had abandoned. “Yeah it is. You dropped it when you crossed the street back there” Rick laughed, looking back at a dumbfounded Joaquin, eyeing him over. “You didn’t see it, did you?” Joaquin hesitated before answering, Rick cut him off again before he could “Too busy fucking with your gloves? Here” Rick handed Joaquin’s gloves back to him with a smirk on his face. “You guys mind transporting this one? Just stick him in holding, we’re gonna go toss the car” said Rick to the uniform.
Ten minutes later, Joaquin had walked back to the abandoned truck and climbed into the front seat. He went straight for the glove box. “The fuck was this motherfucker looking for” He groaned to himself, pulling out loose CDs, CD cases and other junk. No registration slip. Perez reached for the glove compartment and popped it open, tossing through more junk. Nothing. After searching the front seat, he made his way to the back seat and found a plastic bag on the floor. A search of the bag turned up a scale and several small baggies still in their packaging. “Rick!” Joaquin yelled to his FTO, who was going through the trunk. “What?’ Replied Rick as he walked around to Perez, standing aside, displaying the bag and its contents open on the floor. “That... Is something Narcotics are gonna want to know about. Bag it” Joaquin went back to the patrol car for an evidence bag while Rick resumed his search. After Perez had bagged the scale and baggies, Rick emerged triumphantly with a ‘Crack Cookie’ in an evidence bag. “The fuck did you find that?” “Trap car. You still got a lot to learn, Boot” Joaquin walked backwards to the front seat, staring at the compartment that sat exposed in the dashboard. “Motherfucker” Perez stomped back to the black and white while dialing numbers into his cellphone. He called a tow truck to the street and watched as the SUV rolled out to an impound yard.
The sound droning out of the speaker system had begun to annoy Joaquin three hours prior. Now, he was finding solace indulging in the fantasy of applying a choke hold to the song’s composer while staring down at the crime scene log in his left hand.
‘All I want for Chriiist-mas, is you!‘
Perez’s eyes closed over, he thumped the clipboard in his left hand against his own forehead with a groan. The sound of the automatic doors sliding open in front of him brought Joaquin back to the present. Two men dressed in County Coroner coveralls rolled a gurney, the top of which was covered with an empty body bag, through the automatic sliding doors ahead of Joaquin. “Rough night, officer?” The larger of the two joked. “This’s gotta be the fiftieth time I’ve heard this fucking song, dude. One more and you’re gonna need one of those for me” Perez complained, gesturing to the body bag with the clipboard. “Names and numbers?” He dutifully wrote down the names and ID numbers of the two men before waving them through to the vast labyrinth of the ‘Super’ department store, dryly quipping “Clean up in isle three, electronics department” The two coroner’s employees barely snickered and rolled the gurney off towards the electronics department.
Rick strolled up the scratched tiled floor towards Perez. “C’mon, check this out properly before they zip him up. Need you to log the time they bag ‘em anyway” Perez turned and started across the floor towards Rick, following him to a rear corner of the store. Perez and Rick strode down a specific isle crowded by uniforms and two homicide detectives in suits, all watching the two men from the Coroner’s Office expertly lay out and prepare the body bag on the floor, alongside a deceased 20 year old Hispanic male, lying on his back in the isle. A rich, dark rose red stain covered the dead man’s green, red and white striped polo shirt below his sternum, with a thinning trail that ran down his abdomen like a winding river. “Somebody hit him up good. Knife?” One of the homicide detectives, still wearing blue latex gloves, nodded.
“Kitchen knife did that. You can buy it over the counter for ten bucks, no questions asked” Rick lamented as the Coroner’s men grabbed the body’s ankles and shoulders. “But I wanna buy a two hundred dollar Benchmade, this state says no because it’s ‘spring activated’... How the fuck does that make sense?” He asked nobody in particular. The coroner’s men drew the zipper on the body bag closed.
Rick and Perez walked out from the department store ten minutes later, dropping back into their seats in the black and white patrol car. Joaquin dried to tip whatever was left of the Red Bull can left behind into his mouth before crushing the aluminium can in his hand and starting the engine. He accelerated toward the exit, only slowing down by the sidewalk to roll his window down and drop the crushed can into an open topped trashcan before rolling back out onto the boulevard. Perez brought the radio mic up to his jaw. A female dispatcher’s broadcast stopped his thumb from applying any more pressure to the mic key. “Any available Mission Row unit, report of woman screaming. 2103 Roy Lowenstein, 2103 Roy Lowenstein. PR reports possible domestic dispute, escalating into woman screaming incoherently. Code two incident, 22-53” “Time to meet another satisfied customer” Groaned Perez, keying the radio mic. “Two Adam Thirteen, show us handling”. Another unit’s broadcast came over the same frequency after Perez set the radio mic back into the cradle. “Two Adam eleven, show us backing Two Adam thirteen”.
“You haven’t met these two wonderful, wonderful people, have you?” Rick asked Joaquin, laying on the sarcasm while the black and white rolled through an intersection. “Nope. You know this house?” Joaquin asked, glancing across at Rick, who simply nodded. “Why haven’t we been here before then?” Rick sighed while bracing his hands against the armrest and center console, pushing himself back and upright against the passenger seat, straightening his back out. “The guy’s probably just paroled” Joaquin sighed, Rick continued “Same story. She calls the police or the neighbors do because he’s beating on her, we get there, hook him up and she tries to take somebody’s head off for locking up her baby daddy and one true love” “What’re his priors?” Perez asked, turning a corner in the patrol car. “Battery on police, resisting...” Replied Rick dismissively.
The patrol car rolled to a stop at the curb in front of the neighbor’s house on Roy Lowenstein Boulevard. A second black and white came to a stop behind Perez and Rick’s unit as they both set foot onto the pavement, exchanging nods with the other two uniforms, Dominguez and Gallo, both Police Officer IIs Perez had known in passing, as they emerged from their own vehicle. The four officers made their way down the sidewalk toward the house after each broadcast a ‘code 6’ at the call’s location. The four slowed on their approach to the front of the house, each officer decreasing the volume on his radio and listening intently as they drew closer to the front door. No discernible sound emanating from the house, no screaming, no raised voices, no audible clue as to what lay on the other side of that door. Perez had learned very quickly to hate domestics. Whatever satisfaction he got from putting handcuffs on a coward that physically abused their wife was gone when the victim in that equation turned on them or refused to press charges. The final straw had been a call in his third month working in Mission Row Division, Perez was arresting a man after he admitted to punching his common law wife in the face. As Perez walked the man to the front door in handcuffs, he passed the living room in which Rick was speaking to the common law wife. Seeing Perez walking with her man in man in handcuffs, the wife sprinted past Rick and jumped onto Joaquin’s back from behind, clawing at his face with her acrylic fingernails. He hated these calls.
Rick and Perez approached the front door and stood on the outside of the door frame, Rick hammered on the steel mesh security door with the heel of a closed fist while Dominguez and Gallo separated off and tried to look through one of the front windows of the residence. Gallo looked back at Rick and Perez from the window after 3 seconds and shook his head, offering a shrug. Rick continued hammering the door, yelling ‘Police!’ At the doorway. Another twenty seconds passed before the door was pulled open by a black man in his late 20s, dressed in nothing but a black tank top and a pair of boxer shorts. “Got a warrant?” The man asked through the security door. “We received reports of a woman screaming at his address” Rick stated, reverting to the same pattern of speech he regularly used when contacting witnesses or potential suspects. “Is everything alright in there, sir?” “Yeah, errything’s fine” replied the man. “Is Tisha home?” Rick asked in the same neutral tone. The man shook his head “Nah, she went out” “Where’d she go?” “The store, I don’t know. Y’all done?” He started to close the door, until Rick barked “Are you on probation or parole, Michael?’ The door stopped, the man identified as Michael swung it open again. “Man, what y’all want?” “We want to talk to Latisha, make sure she’s alright. Just like last time, Michael. Or we can call your P-O” Michael’s eyes rolled, he sighed as if he was being majorly inconvenienced before stepping back and yelling into the rest of the house. “Tisha! Po-lease, wanna talk to you!”
A young lady in her mid 20s looked around the corner at the front door. “I’m fine” She dryly stated. “Can you come outside please, ma’am?” Rick asked, his tone softening to a degree. “Why?’ Replied Tanisha, walking down the hallway towards the front door. “So we can have a conversation” Rick replied in the same civil tone. “I’m fine, I told you” Replied Tisha “She fine, she told you” Michael echoed. Gallo snickered, drawing Michael’s attention “What the fuck’s so funny, white boy?”. Silence. Until Rick broke it. “Ma’am, can you step outside so we can talk to you? Sooner we have a conversation, sooner we know everything’s okay and we can leave” Tisha reluctantly agreed, stepping out onto the porch and walking down to the edge of the porch with Rick. A conversation in lowered voices followed. Joaquin stayed by the side of the doorway, watching Michael’s demeanor and hands out of a learned habit. Five minutes later Tisha walked back in and all four uniforms turned to leave.
“You get your book signed off yet, boot? This old school asshole give you the O.K to stick around?” Asked Dominguez halfway back to the two black and whites. “I hope so. I get death threats every day, been spat on, kicked, punched, questioned, criticised and second guessed at everything I do... Kinda like it out here” All four four of them laughed. Two electronic beeps cut through the laughter from the radios on each of their belts, a female dispatcher speaking hurriedly filled the silence that ensued between the four of them. “Any available unit, Officer Needs Help” - Rick, Perez, Dominguez and Gallo broke from the sidewalk and bolted for the patrol cars cars - “Four one zero Strawberry Avenue. Four one zero Strawberry Avenue, Vanilla Unicorn Gentleman’s Club. Medium to large scale disturbance, large crowd. Officer needs help. Code 3 incident-” The two sirens blaring out from the two black and whites accelerating away from the curb drowned out the last of the broadcast.
The two patrol cars briefly slowed as they approached an intersection before the drivers gunned their engines once again, flying through the night at a high rate of speed. The radio came alive with transmissions from units arriving at the strip club, followed by more calls for help. Perez floored the accelerator and wrenched the steering wheel to avoid a civilian vehicle suddenly braking, slamming his hand against the horn and resisting the urge to shoot a death glare at the startled driver as they passed. The black and white approached a red light with a light amount of waiting traffic, spread across every lane. “Come on, move!” Joaquin moaned, applying the brakes and slowing down greatly. The light switched from red to green after a few seconds, but none of the cars moved at first. Perez hit the accelerator and the black and white lurched forward, he floored the horn in the center of the steering wheel while Rick grabbed the radio mic, changing the mic to the PA system and barking orders at the stationary traffic. “Get out of the way - drive through the intersection” One of the waiting cars gunned their engine, Perez steered into the same lane and accelerated through the intersection while switching through different siren tones with his right hand, hissing under his breath while clearing the intersection. “Stupid motherfuckers”
The two car procession rolled into the parking lot outside the Vanilla Unicorn, a location notorious and known by patrol and gang officers that worked in the division. The parking lot was full of regular cars parked in a mostly orderly manner and several police vehicles with their emergency lights activated, coating the surrounding walls and building in additional colors to those projected by the neon lights outside the strip club. Perez parked the patrol car at the curb at the outset of the parking lot, clambering out of the drivers seat and rushing toward the front door while hurriedly pulling his collapsed baton from his belt. Rick and Dominguez strode briskly at a speed a little slower than a jog behind Joaquin who, joined by Gallo, had reached the door and shouldered it out of the way. Dominguez and Rick chuckled between themselves while following the two younger uniforms through the door.
The floor of the club had a bar set off to the right side and a stage that ran down the center of the sunk floor directly opposite. Private booths were off to the left of the hallway that lead off from the entrance with a DJ booth overlooking the entire floor above the stage. The speaker system was pumping out ‘Heartless’ by Kanye West. The sunk floor was largely occupied by uniforms, finishing up with what had evidently been the aftermath of a brawl. The stage was sparsely occupied by 2 of the dancers, both barely moving and largely watching the melee’s conclusion. Perez slowed his step at the edge of the sunken floor, sighing aloud with clear disappointment they had missed the festivities. He slid his baton away and dropped down to help two other uniforms handcuff a gang member he vaguely recognised still struggling on the floor. A fourth uniform Perez didn’t recognise emerged from the subsiding affray with a PR-24 nightstick in his hand, approaching the trio, including Perez, wrestling with the same gang member’s arms, trying to pull his hands out from the front of his waist on the ground. One of the two uniforms with Perez eventually managed to bend the unruly suspect’s left elbow up, causing the man to throw his hands out from under his stomach. “I’m done!” The three uniforms pounced onto both of his hands, shoving handcuffs on as quickly as humanly possible. Joaquin got up and looked around for any other stragglers, seeing everything else more or less under control, he started up toward the bar to get a better vantage point over the floor to try and find Rick. As Perez neared the 2 steps up from the sunken floor, another man being past him in handcuffs threw his shoulder out into Perez’s back, knocking him off balance and sending him down onto the two stairs, the lower of which hit him in the abdomen below his vest and above his waist. The cop walking the man in handcuffs threw him to the floor and dropped a knee onto his back. “Motherfucker!”
Joaquin rolled himself over onto his back and sat up on the stairs, setting one hand onto his stomach while part of him wondered what happened, and the rest got angry. He looked around and saw the man that had kicked him having the pressure point in his shoulder crushed by Gallo whose knee was on top of him. “You okay?!’ Gallo yelled over the noise and music. Perez wearily nodded back and pushed himself back up from the stairs, reaching down to pull the handcuffed college age suspect up from the floor with Gallo. They marched the handcuffed man outside, approaching one of the black and whites in the parking lot. They threw the back door open and pushed the handcuffed man toward the back seat, Joaquin, still angry, glanced over at Gallo before punching the rowdy suspect in the lower back and propelling him into the rear seat with his right foot, slamming the door shut behind him. The two uniforms turned back toward the blazing purple neon illuminating the outside of the strip club in a raspberry red tinge.
Perez and Gallo reached the front door of the club, as a streak of panic ran through Joaquin, having a rather sobering effect on the anger he felt. If the building had cameras on the outside, he might have to answer for striking the man more than he needed to. “What a fucking asshole” Perez remarked, pausing briefly “He know what ‘stop’ resisting means?” Gallo shrugged without saying anything.
Joaquin awoke to the sound of knocking on the door. He forced his eyes open and tried to sit up before the pain in his abdomen forced him back down. “Yeah...?” He called out to the closed door, he heard his mother’s voice respond. “You going to work today?” She asked, Joaquin’s heart rate spiked, he looked down at the digital clock on the nightstand and sprang out of bed, despite the pain. He’d slept through his alarm.
Ten minutes later he was on the freeway, gunning it through the evening traffic, cussing out every other car that slid into his lane. Having no time to shower or shave, he’d thrown his war bag onto the passenger seat and started driving, arriving only a few minutes late for Night Watch roll call. The Sergeant walked into the room, carrying a clipboard with a printout of the day’s assignments, the latest warrants and stolen cars for the division, as usual. The chatter and banter in the classroom-type arrangement of the room died down to a few individual voices as the Sergeant approached the desk and slid his reading glasses on. “Alright, good evening...” He began, pausing to look up from the clipboard at the sea of uniforms sitting behind the rows of staggered desks that filled the majority of the room. “The Captain’s going to address you before we get to anything else tonight” The chatter ceased, all eyes went to the door the Sergeant had entered through. “So for now, I’d ask you all remain quiet and pay attention. This affects all of us” The Sergeant gestured toward the door all eyes were on with the clipboard before assuming his seat at the ‘teacher’s desk’. The Captain stepped through the door in a long sleeve uniform with a clip on tie, the dual bars pinned to her collar completely filled with a reflection of the overhead fluorescent lighting.
“Good evening, Night Watch. Merry Christmas” The Captain began, standing parallel to the Sergeant’s desk. “I’m here to inform you about some of the changes that you are going to start seeing in the division and across the department over the next year” The tension in the room increased, Rick leant over to his left and exchanged hushed words with another Police Officer III. “Unfortunately, the city has had to make some major cutbacks this year. Consequently, over the next twelve months we will be forced to scale back overtime-“ This comment was met with groaning and some hushed complaining “And we’ll need to roll some patrol units back to solo Lincoln units. I know this is not what you want to hear, but it shouldn’t effect Night Watch, or this division greatly... Our call volumes and violent incidents are some of the highest in the city and we understand how difficult it is out there” The Captain paused, adjusting her posture and the position of her hands, much like a politician in front of a news crew. “Consequently” She continued. ‘The Captain must love that word’, Perez pondered before plotting where his first cup of coffee for the night was coming from.
The watch filed out from the roll call room after the Sergeant ran through the usual briefing and handed out assignments. Perez met Rick by their assigned unit and stepped back to the trunk as he did, throwing his war bag in with Rick’s. Perez tossed the back door open started the routine search of the rear seat. “Coffee from Dunkin Donuts sound good? I’m buying” Perez asked while inspecting the floor of the rear seat. “Sure” Rick replied from the other side of the car. They finished the search and got into the front seat, followed by Perez accelerating out of the underground parking garage as quickly as he could. “What’d I tell you” Rick asked, setting his right arm onto the windowsill as Joaquin turned the black and white onto Sinner Street. “I was gonna clear us after we got-“ Joaquin began, before Rick silenced him by holding up his left hand. “The Captain” “Oh” “Won’t affect us... My ass” Rick groaned, glancing down an alley as the patrol car rolled past. “You forget to clear us, boot?” Joaquin snatched the radio mic with clenched teeth and broadcast their unit was clear from the division.
Fifteen minutes later, Joaquin walked out of Dunkin Donuts with two Starbucks ‘Venti’ sized coffee cups emblazoned with ‘Dunkin Donuts’, handing one off to Rick at the door before downing a long sip of the scalding hot contents of his own. “Better?” Rick asked “You have no idea” Perez replied, suddenly realising the stupidity of his own comment. “Don’t say it, I’m still tired” he groaned, starting back toward the patrol car. Rick just chuckled through a smile and calmly sipped at his coffee, staring at the bruised and sleep deprived 20-something rookie fumbling with the keys across the roof of the black and white.
“I passed you on your last eval. You’ll hear it officially in a couple of days, but you made probation” Rick stated indifferently, sipping at the coffee cup as Perez drove the patrol car down the boulevard, staring at the street ahead with bags under his eyes. The statement caught him off guard, he glared over at the older cop sitting in the passenger seat, quietly drinking the coffee provided to him. “Seriously?” He asked, snapping his eyes back to the road and pushing the brake down to avoid striking another car stopped at a red light. Rick nodded his head, replying nonchalantly. “Yeah” “Well uh, thank you” Joaquin half shrugged, trailing off. Elation washed over him as he looked back at the street ahead, accelerating through the newly changed green light. He sipped at his coffee as a smile took shape on his face. A female dispatcher’s voice broke the silence in the car. “Two Adam Thirteen, report of woman screaming, possible domestic. 2103 Roy Lowenstein-“ “Fuck!” “-2103 Roy Lowenstein. PR reports couple arguing over Christmas music. Code two incident, 21-44”. “I fucking hate Christmas music too, and there’s another reason why. It’s responsible for us having to go visit these assholes again” Joaquin spat as he manoeuvred the patrol car into a turning lane.
The night was young. Night Watch spilled out from roll call into the parking garage. Joaquin walked to his assigned unit and threw his war bag into the trunk before locking the Remington 870 into place and checking the back seat with gloved hands. He dropped into the driver’s seat and cruised out of the parking garage in the procession of black and whites clearing the division. Every unit cleared themselves on the radio one by one as they turned onto Sinner Street. Perez hit a button on his armrest and dropped both front windows, setting his left arm onto the windowsill and steering with his left hand at the 9 o’clock position on the wheel.
The weather had started to get warmer again, not that it was overly cold but the ideal ‘cruising weather’ as Perez called it, in the presence if no one, was coming back. He turned off of Sinner Street and hooked around the police station, taking Little Bighorn Avenue that ran parallel to the east LS river as a shortcut under the Olympic Freeway, to the south side. He dug his iPhone out of his right breast pocket where it sat with his business cards and hit ‘Play’ on the last song that was running ‘Conejo - Yo Soy Leyenda’. Riding solo meant he could listen to anything he wanted, so long as he could still hear the radio. He’d almost bought Bluetooth speakers but ruled that out after a traffic officer had been written up for directing traffic while listening to an iPod. Pushing a black and white solo also meant he was assigned low priority calls, a large majority of which were interviewing victims and taking reports, mostly for thefts and burglaries. Riding solo also meant there was no one to share the paperwork with. Joaquin had spent a lot of his time, since being promoted to Police Officer II, writing.
Joaquin drove through the sparely lit south eastern corner of the division, bordering the industrial Cypress Flats and the Elysian Island areas. He swept the spotlight on the patrol car across the barbed wire fencing, shipping containers and warehouses while cruising at ‘patrol speed’, 15-20 miles an hour, making it easier to look through windows and down alleys, giving himself time to take everything in. The Chicano rap music playing from his iPhone kept his subconscious both entertained and focused. He eventually turned out of the industrial pocket of the south side onto MacDonald Street, into Rancho, a residential area populated by small businesses, a motel, a church, residences and a block covered by a low rise project. He drove west through south central at patrol speed, staring down the mouth of every alley the patrol car passed by with the spotlight. Occasionally the beam of light hit either an unmarked Gang Impact car everyone that lived south of the Olympic knew was a police car or a small cluster of 3-4 people. He cut the spotlight and drove on, picking up speed while continuing west, crossing the railway tracks that separated the Rancho area from Davis and Chamberlain Hills.
Perez slowed the patrol car down once more as he passed the Davis Fire Station, lifting his left arm up from the window sill to wave at two EMTs in uniform standing outside the open garage door on a smoke, backlit by the interior. Both EMTs waved back as he accelerated through the next intersection, giving every vehicle he passed a cursory glance for anything that stuck out. A male dispatcher’s voice drafted up from the radio in the patrol car “Two Lincoln Eighteen, code 1. Welfare check” Joaquin paused the music on his iPhone and unhooked the radio mic from its cradle, broadcasting a response while scanning a maze of alleyways behind several fast food businesses as he drive past. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, westbound on MacDonald between Davis and Strawberry” The dispatcher responded in the affirmative before advising him to see his screen for a garbage call. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, roger” Perez droned back into the radio mic before setting it back down. Not like he had anywhere to be or anything to do, Perez thought to himself. Why not start the night with a call nobody else wanted. He accessed the onboard computer while steering the patrol car through the mild traffic, skimming the abbreviated information keyed by the dispatcher that took the call. ‘NON EMRG. WLFR CHCK. MEET PR O/SIDE’ The address was a south side residence close to a gas station. He’d be able to get lousy coffee if it was a nothing call. He checked his side mirrors before plotting the course of the black and white to the residence, pulling the patrol car to the curb outside the address 10 minutes later.
Perez climbed out from the black and white, approaching an older African American lady in her 50s standing outside a reasonably well kept house with a healthy lawn. She stood outside an open wood gate with two kids aged between 7 and 9 on either side. Perez broadcast his position and arrival on the radio before he approached the lady, pulling gloves onto each of hands. “Officer?’ “How can I help you, ma’am?” “Mister Perkins isn’t answering the door, I know he’s home and I think he’s in trouble, might’a hurt hisself” Joaquin nodded and took a cursory look at the front of the house. “What makes you say that?” He asked, sliding a notebook and pen out from his shirt pocket. “He knew we was coming. His neighbor saw him outside this morning” Perez nodded again. “Does he live alone?” Yvonne nodded “What’s your relationship to him?” “He family. His great grandkids is my grandkids play cousins.” Perez nodded again. Not an uncommon characterisation in south central for close family friends. “What’s your name, ma’am?” He asked, poising a pen above his notepad where he had noted the time of his arrival and the address. “Yvonne Richards” the lady replied. He stepped through the gate and up to the front door, standing to the side of the doorframe. Joaquin hammered on the door with a closed, gloved fist. “Mister Perkins! Police! Come to the door please!” He yelled after the knocking went unanswered. Perez called back to the lady standing by the gate after another round of knocking and calling out went unanswered. “Ma’am, what’s Mister Perkins’ first name?’ Perez called back to Yvonne. “Ronald!” He waved his appreciation before knocking on the door one last time. “Ronald! Can you come to the door, please? Just wanna make sure you’re okay!” Nothing.
Joaquin stepped down from the porch and approached Yvonne Richards once more, who was bending down and trying to console the two kids. “Does Ronald have a car?” Perez asked, looking back at the house and at the garage tucked into the background. Yvonne shook her head. “Not anymore. Stolen” Perez nodded again with an added sigh, starting toward the garage while pulling the flashlight from his belt. He peered through a filthy glass window in the door at the garage, lighting up the dingy interior with the flashlight. No car, no body. He turned back to the house and walked into the back yard with the flashlight, approaching a closed rear door and kitchen window. He tried the back door with his gloved hand. Locked. He went to the kitchen window and looked through with the flashlight, he could see no lights were on and all of the kitchen cabinetry had been flung open. Joaquin walked around behind the house, looking through a crack in the curtains at another window with the aid of the flashlight. He saw the foot of a bed frame with the mattress askew, drawers flung open, personal property and clothes strewn out over the floor. Joaquin circled the house again, back through the backyard while keying his radio mic. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, requesting backup and a supervisor to my location”
Perez walked back out the front of the house to Yvonne. “Does Ronald usually keep a clean house, ma’am?” Joaquin asked, prompting the reaction he expected of thinly veiled hostility. “Would it be unusual for him to have a ton of cabinet doors open and things all over the floor?” Perez asked with a blank face, trying his best to inject concern into his voice. Yvonne face fell, her head slowly nodded. Joaquin turned around to face the once more. Two additional black and whites pulled up at the curb by Perez’s patrol car after a few minutes. He walked out to meet the three uniforms stepping around to the sidewalk. “What is it, Perez?” Opened the Sergeant, a balding heavyset white guy in his 40s by the name of Reeves “I’ve gotta be in five different places right now. You got lucky, you were the closest” “Old guy, lives alone. House looks like it’s been tossed. Doors are locked” Joaquin droned back at Reeves. “He’s not responding, I’ve knocked on the front and back door. Neighbor apparently saw him here earlier” The Sergeant walked past Joaquin, Yvonne and the two kids, striding right up to the door and hammering it. “Sir! Los Santos Police! Come to the door please!” Five seconds of silence. “Sir!” Yelled the Sergeant again. Perez looked back at the two uniforms standing by the three black and whites, one of whom shrugged. The Sergeant’s boot slammed into the door, sending it flying inwards with a loud wood-splintering thud, followed by the door crashing into a wall inside the house, leaving an empty doorway filled with pure darkness. Perez started up the path to the door and brought the flashlight up again, directing a cool-white beam of light into the house, illuminating debris and property strewn across the hallway floor from the living room. Sergeant Reeves drew the Beretta 92fs from his holster and went through the door with Joaquin behind him, his own Glock 22 in hand. The two uniforms at the street followed suit, entering the house with flashlights and handguns.
Joaquin held his position at a closed door while the Sergeant swept through the kitchen and living room, nodding his head forward at the closed door. Joaquin nudged the door inward with his left foot, presenting the muzzle of the Glock 22 and flashlight in both hands as it swung forward. The body of an elderly African American male was prone on the tiled floor, in the middle of the confined bathroom, feet toward the open door. Joaquin inched carefully into the room and cleared the bathtub before turning his attention to the body, a small pool of blood had formed underneath his forehead and clotted, with a thin trail snaking off, winding its way through the grouting tothe drain built into the tiled floor. Joaquin checked for a pulse, knowing full well he was long gone, looking up at the Sergeant and shaking his head afterward. The other two uniforms walked into the doorframe and looked down at Perez and the body. “You shoot him?” One of them asked, in deadpan. “Yeah, he called me spic” Joaquin deadpanned. The trio of younger Police Officer IIs chuckled, the Sergeant smiled and shook his head. A dark and diseased sense of humor was a must to survive mentally, long term, in a police department. It wasn’t a unique quality in a south central police station, but it sure was prominent. “Alright, let’s get up and get out. Don’t touch shit” Ordered the Sergeant. “Wonder if there’s a crackhead in the family” he wondered aloud as they filed out of the house. “Oh shit” one of the two uniforms mumbled, setting eyes on Yvonne at the gate. The Sergeant sighed as his eyes fell on the older lady and two kids. He looked back at the trio of younger uniforms “Any volunteers?” Silence. Joaquin rolled his eyes and started toward the group at the gate.
As Perez approached, sliding his gloves off, Yvonne shook her head slowly and pulled both of the juveniles in to her sides. Tears began their journey down the side of her face slowly at first before picking up speed and running off the side of her jaw. Joaquin sighed again, simply staring at them in silence. They knew. Joaquin could sense the pain radiating from Yvonne. He turned back to see the trio of uniforms standing by the front door talking, not even looking in his direction. Another dead body, another day.
An hour later Perez sat on the front of his patrol car writing out his report on a clipboard. The crime scene tape was up, Homicide Detectives were on scene and Scene Investigations DIvision personnel were walking in and out of the house in their cover-all suits and booties. Reeves strode up to Perez while sticking a cigarette between his lips, fumbling through his pockets for his lighter. “Perez. Meant to talk to you at the end of watch” Joaquin looked up from his half written report, mildly annoyed he’d been interrupted. “What’s up, Sarge?” “No word you’re being transferred, yet. This budget massacre has everyone trying to figure how to scale back what they have now. Having to move you new P2s around as well just threw another wrench into a machine that’s had an entire hardware store shoved up its ass” The Sergeant sparked his lighter and lit the cigarette, blowing a trail of smoke into the atmosphere. Joaquin’s eyes scanned the street and his surroundings in the silence. “Okay, so am I going anywhere or not? I’m trying to find a new place and-“ The Sergeant held up a hand. “I don’t know. It might happen tomorrow, it might happen next week, it might not happen at all. You married?” Joaquin shook his head “Kids?” He shook his head again. “Then if I were you, I’d hang here while you can. There’s plenty of O.T going around, plenty of the action you young kids love, you get to run, fight, jump, shoot, and get paid extra for it without going home to a wife that bitches you into an early grave for working all the time” Reeves took another drag off his cigarette. Joaquin nodded slowly and went back to his report. “Thanks for the update, Sarge” He continued writing. “Shit, it’s the perfect time to pad your resume, kid” Reeves continued, unabated.
Joaquin looked up from the report to Reeves again, arching an eyebrow. Reeves read the confusion on his face and changed his posture, pausing to take a drag on the cigarette. “Where do you wanna go in the department? What do you wanna do?” The Sergeant’s tone had shifted, he seemed more personable than the superior giving orders, shifting his demeanor to that of the old dog, schooling the young puppy. “Gang Impact, maybe Narcotics down the line” Joaquin replied after thinking for a few seconds. Reeves nodded his head continually while scanning the street, expelling a thin trail of second hand smoke. “So start working towards it now. You get the chance, make drug arrests, gives you something to tout when you put in for Narcotics, you make a ton of drug arrests, shows you know how to spot Doctor Feel-Good. Talk to gang members, learn who’s who in the zoo. Who runs what corner, which gang’s on what block. You already speak Spanish, right? There you go. Knowledge is power”
Reeves swept the street with both eyes again, inhaling one final drag on the cigarette before he dropped it into the gutter, blowing out the last breath of smoke. “Plenty of obs arrests’ll help you get into Gangs too...” Joaquin eyed him with a quizzical expression again. Reeves sighed, before elaborating. ”Observation arrests. An arrest that originates from an observation you made, from proactive police work. Gang Impact’s a proactive unit, not reactive like Patrol. Any dummy can chase the radio, go where it sends them and arrest whoever got the cops called on ‘em. That’s reactive. A proactive cop, a real street cop, sees something that doesn’t look right, sees some guy that keeps moving his pants around because he’s conscious of the gun that keeps moving in there because he doesn’t have a holster. He sees the gang banger that just paroled - because he pays attention to what happens in his area - going out of his way not to look at him... He stops and questions those guys, pats ‘em down if he can, takes a gun and a piece of shit on legs off the street. Because he was paying attention. Understand?” Joaquin nodded, having completely forgotten about the report on the clipboard. Reeves looked down from the street to Joaquin, making eye contact. “The police can make a thousand mistakes...” Reeves said, pausing for dramatic effect before continuing “...They only get to make one”. Perez chuckled and pulled the clipboard back up. “I know you stole that from someone else” Reeves laughed and turned to walk back up to the taped off house.
Six hours after arriving at the residence it was early morning and Perez was finally able to clear the scene, getting back out onto the street. His first stop was a 24 Hour convenience store, he left with two tall Cans of Red Bull, downing a large gulp from one as he pulled. the patrol car back out onto the sparsely populated streets. Perez braked to a halt at a red light, despite the intersection being deserted, chronically sipping from the aluminium can and running Sergeant Reeves’ words through his mind. Even if it wasn’t going to be a direct line in to a special unit, chasing felony arrests exclusively and proactively targeting the real bad guys sounded like a far better use of his time than cutting citations for traffic infractions. He hated traffic court with a burning passion as it was. The light switched from red to green and Perez accelerated through the intersection, steering the patrol car with the base of his Red Bull can onto Carson Avenue.
As the patrol car neared the next intersection, a white four door containing at least three, maybe four heads, pulled quickly out from the mouth of an alley that ran between several government subsidised apartment complexes, making a sharp right turn onto Carson Avenue ahead of Perez’s patrol car. His tenses perked up again, the sugar and caffeine he had been drinking seemed to sharpen his senses even more. The light up ahead changed to red, the white four door sedan moved into the right turning lane and barely slowed, nevermind coming to a complete stop, before turning right. Probable Cause. Perez’s lips twisted into a smile. He set the Red Bull can into the empty cup holder beside the unopened can and gunned his engine through the intersection, only pausing for a quick glance to ensure it was clear.
Joaquin accelerated up behind the white sedan, sweeping the rear window of the car with the spotlight before activating his overhead lights, chirping his siren twice. The white sedan pulled over to the curb, Joaquin rolled in several feet behind it, and began tapping the license plate of the car into his onboard computer. He looked back up at the car ahead and saw the occupants moving, particularly in the back seat. He cracked the drivers door and unhooked the radio mic from its cradle, broadcasting the traffic stop’s location, the vehicle description and license plate before requesting another unit for cover. He had a feeling, he had something here. A car he didn’t recognise, creeping around the projects 3-4 deep in south central at this hour, this peaked his interest. Joaquin took his foot off of the brake and allowed his patrol car to roll a few inches closer, he adjusted the spotlight to better blind the driver’s mirrors and look at the occupants. The plates came back as unregistered or invalid. Joaquin glanced up at the rear view mirror and realised nobody had broadcast they were responding to back him up. Perez keyed his radio mic again, his eyes locked on the occupants of the car ahead. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, request backup on Strawberry between Forum and Carson. Tags on vehicle are invalid” He paused, hesitating before broadcasting “Show me code six” and returning the radio mic to the cradle. Perez moved to get out of the patrol car when the white sedan accelerated, hard, away from the curb and into the extremely light traffic. Perez throw himself back into the drivers seat and slammed the patrol car back into drive, gunning his engine after the white sedan. The inertia threw his drivers door closed with a bang. He keyed his radio mic again, steering with one hand while an adrenaline dump hit his system in a wave. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, show me in pursuit of a white four door, headin’ east off Strawberry onto Grove. Three to four occupants, at least two male blacks in the rear seat”. This time, the radio lit up with other units responding code 3, lights and sirens. ‘You motherfuckers’ Joaquin thought in the back of his mind before activating the siren.
The white four door turned north off of Grove and wound through the residential streets, populated in each side with parked cars. Perez squeezed the brakes on continually, weaving through the stationary traffic and cluttered streets, swiftly closing the gap between the patrol car and the white sedan. He could see the outlines of the two occupants in the rear seat staring out the back window at him, he caught glimpses of wrists and forearms as the white car flew underneath street lights. Perez’s single handed grip on the steering wheel tightened as he stared hard at the white sedan, his eyes briefly drifted to the white paint itself. The alternating flashing of red and blue from the patrol car’s overhead lights on the fleeing car ahead, against the blurred backdrop of the city at night was an exhilarating sight. He wanted to go faster, harder, he wanted to chase them until one of them was under his knee and in bracelets or his engine exploded.
Both cars went over a bump in the road and jolted both steel frames, returning Joaquin to reality. He re-keyed his mic after the pursuit swerved out onto Roy Lowenstein Boulevard, which had a set of train tracks running through its center. They had entered the Rancho area. The car drove into the mouth of an alley and cut its headlights, turning sharply at a T-intersection in the alley, behind several houses segregated from the alley by fencing. Perez floored the brakes to avoid crashing into the fence and threw the steering wheel around, guiding the nose of the car around the corner before flooring the accelerator once more. The engine roared as he closed the distance between his patrol car and the white sedan once more. “Suspect vehicle northbound in the alley between” He paused, where the fuck was he. “-Lowenstein and Jamestown” he hurried to broadcast before reaching down to jam the air horn as the suspect vehicle flew out of the alley, across the two lanes of Carson Avenue and through to another alley. Perez’s car mirrored the same course, flying northbound across the Avenue. The white sedan exited the next alley with a westbound turn onto MacDonald, Perez slowed down a little more this time, afraid of hitting some drunk stumbling out of the liquor store one block over. He hooked a left after the fleeing car and floored it back across the train tracks separating Davis and Rancho, while still broadcasting updates on the radio mic in his right hand. “West on MacDonald”.
The white four door slowed and turned left off of MacDonald, Perez slowed down behind them, keying the radio mic again and relaying updates while the white car circled the block. After the second pass, he felt another dump of adrenaline hit his system. “He’s blocking” - circling the block - “He’s ‘prolly gonna go for a foot bail!” The car circled the block once more, just as two other black and whites flew into the area with their lights and sirens active. The white sedan slowed to a crawl on Brogue Avenue, off of MacDonald Street, the passenger doors all flew open and black teenagers jumped out and ran in three different directions. The driver stayed in the car and accelerated away. Stay on the car or chase the runners - who was more likely to have a gun or drugs if they had any, Joaquin quickly pondered. He yanked the keys out of the ignition and leapt from his car, tearing down the sidewalk after one of the youths. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, code six on Brogue! foot bail on Brogue!” He yelled into his radio, pausing in a futile attempt to take a breath “Foot pursuit, male black, black shirt, dreads, east in the alley off Brogue! Car’s heading southbound on Brogue towards Carson!” He dropped the radio from his mouth and put his focus into running hard down the alley, fueled by adrenaline, sugar and caffeine, he was gaining fast on the lanky 18-19 year old.
“Suspect east through the houses onto Lowenstein!” Perez yelled into the handheld radio. A black and white patrol car came to a screeching at the sidewalk in front of the teen as he reached the curb, a red headed Sergeant by the name of Sheridan flew out of the drivers seat and pointed his service weapon across the roof of the patrol car at the teenager. “Get on the fucking ground!” He roared. The teenager stopped like a deer in the headlights for a split second before turning around and running into the rear yard of a scrap metal business on the corner, Perez reached the sidewalk and saw Sheridan running down the alley behind the business after the teen, yelling back at Perez. “Take my car!” Perez dropped into the drivers seat and threw the car into drive, glancing back down the alley and noticing the modified Less Lethal Remington 870 pump action shotgun with a bright green stock and pump action lying on the passenger seat. Sheridan must have grabbed it when he heard foot bail. Perez gunned the engine and circled the block, positioning the black and white parallel to Sheridan and the fleeing teenager.
The teenager ran eastbound back towards the train tracks at a dead sprint, with the 38 year old Sheridan 15 yards behind him. Perez drove up to the edge of the railway, and hit the brakes as hard as he could before he stepped halfway out of the patrol car, presenting the barrel of the modified Remington 870 between the open drivers door and the windscreen, lining up the sights as best as possible on the shrinking moving target before squeezing the trigger. Nothing happened. “Fucking safety!” Perez inadvertently yelled at the firearm and himself, dropping back into the drivers seat with the long arm as the teenager turned the corner into the fenced parking lot of a motel located on the Rancho side of the train tracks. Perez gunned the engine of the Sergeant’s car again, flying across train tracks, past the still running Sergeant and into the motel parking lot, repeating the same exercise with the brakes and stepping out of the patrol car with the modified Remington 870. This time, he dropped the safety and squeezed the trigger, blasting a solid beanbag round at the teenager running directly toward the fence erected between the motel parking lot and the alley. He wasn’t sure if he hit him, so he racked the action and fired another round, moving out and around from behind the open door, racking the pump action again, and firing another round. This time he saw the white slug-like projectile hit the teenager in the back.
“Don’t fucking move!” Perez yelled at the stumbling teenager, who had been reaching out towards the top of the fence. Perez fired another round and hit the teen in the buttocks, he started to turn around. “Don’t turn around, get on the fucking ground! Now!” The teenager turned around, Perez squeezed the trigger and shot him in the stomach with another beanbag round, slamming the pump action back and forth once more. “Get the fuck down or I’m gonna give it to you again!” The kid’s hands went up, he slowly lowered himself onto the pavement with pain and exhaustion evident on his face. Perez followed the teenager onto the ground with the barrel of the modified Remington 870, eventually pulling the sling over his head once the youth was lying prone on the ground and approaching. Joaquin handcuffed the teenager behind his back with the modified Remington 870 hanging horizontally across his back from the sling draped across his torso. “You shot me, man!” Yelled the kid, once he finally got his breathing under control. “Should’a stopped when I told you. Dumbass” Growled Perez during a quick search of the teenager, digging a small baggy of marijuana out from the kid’s pocket. “This is why you fucking ran!?” Now angry, Perez yanked the handcuffed teenager to his feet and looked over to his right for the first time, facing the Sergeant’s black and white he’d borrowed, spotting a homeless man seated on the ground up against the rear of the motel. The sight sent a shiver up his spine. ‘What the fuck’ He thought. He hadn’t seen him... ‘Tunnel vision, on the runner... they talked about this in the academy. Fucking rookie mistake, and where the fuck’s the Sergeant’, he wondered to himself while pushing the kid up to the patrol car, kicking his feet apart in front of the hood.
Joaquin’s head started to race. What if that homeless guy had been an accomplice, he’d been oblivious to him being there the whole time. The realisation made him feel sick, or maybe that was the adrenaline dump. Perez searched the kid in handcuffs once more, throwing everything he found onto the hood of the patrol car. Meanwhile Sheridan half walked, half threw another of the scrawny kids that had bailed from the car, in handcuffs, around the corner from Roy Lowenstein Boulevard to his own patrol car. Perez quelled the rat race in his mind and focused on his search, ensuring that he wasn’t making another mistake and missing a gun or a knife this kid could have on him. He didn’t find anything. After searching both youths and throwing them into the back seat of the patrol car, Joaquin slid the modified Remington 870 sling back over his head and offered the longarm back to the eyebrow-raising Sergeant. “Think this is yours” “You stole my car, and my toy gun? You gonna steal my job next, Perez?” Sheridan replied, grabbing the modified 870 in his left hand, followed by checking the chamber and re-engaging the safety. Joaquin stared blankly back at Sheridan before offering to meet him back at the division to take the two suspects off of his hands and book them. Sheridan agreed with a shrug and headed for the driver’s seat, Perez began the walk back to his own car.
Perez needed an obs arrest. He wanted an obs arrest. He had spent the first several hours of the watch writing impound reports, after watching tow trucks hook up to three different cars and haul them away to the city’s fenced impound lot. The same lot he had mockingly called ‘car jail’ when threatening an underage joyrider with the impound of their mother’s car if they didn’t provide the name of another joyrider that had struck a pedestrian and their pet dog. That second driver went to ‘people jail’ that same night.
Perez’s patrol car was blacked out, parked in an alley in the shadows of a crack palace motel and church at the edge of the division. Ironically, the black and white sat on the dividing line between a form of hell in that motel and a ‘holy’ place of worship. The music on his iPod was at a low volume, the angry lyrics on an old favorite song - Conejo - Doorway to Hell - motivating him on the hunt for a bad guy, an obs arrest. The traffic on the boulevard the alley let out onto was light. The early morning hour meant the streets were mostly deserted. Any cars on the road were usually one of two options, the odd citizen that worked odd hours or ‘bad guys’, as Joaquin simplified the category.
A taxi rolled into the division from the industrial area to the east. A near deserted bus followed 40 seconds behind, the interior lighting casting an industrial white glow onto the sidewalk and street as it passed. Then nothing. Joaquin slid the iPhone out of his pocket and glanced up at the rear view mirror, lowering his eyes onto the phone. No new text messages, no new emails. He slid the phone away and went back to staring at the boulevard ahead, wishing he had stocked up on Red Bull in his war bag. The sound of an engine in the distance closing on his position from the industrial area to the east brought his attention back to the road. A sports car flew down the boulevard at a high rate of speed, Perez gunned the engine and accelerated out onto the boulevard, keeping his eyes on the fleeting tail lights in the distance. ‘It’ll do’ he thought to himself, applying more pressure to the accelerator and activating his overhead lights and siren, slowly closing the distance.
The sports car pulled over underneath the Olympic Freeway. Perez drew to a halt behind it and keyed his radio mic to broadcast the traffic stop, keying the license plate into the onboard computer afterward. The registered owner was a convicted felon, with the address of a Vinewood rich kid and priors for firearms possession and grand theft auto. ‘How the fuck did he get a ride like that’ Joaquin wondered while scrolling through the registered owner’s criminal history. He paused the music playing from his iPhone and turned the spotlight on, intentionally angling the beam of light into the car’s mirrors to blind the driver. Perez walked up to the sports car with a flashlight in one hand and his Glock 22, still in his holster, in the other. Perez approached the car and saw the registered owner, Luke H, behind the wheel with a blonde female in the passenger seat. “Evening. License, registration and proof of insurance”. The driver, Luke, obliged and handed his license, registration slip and insurance card over to Perez with a pleasant smile.
Joaquin sifted through the documents, ensuring the printed information was mostly consistent with everything he had read on the mobile data terminal moments earlier. “Any idea why I stopped you?” Perez asked, one of his practised questions. “I know I was going a little fast...” Replied Luke, somewhat sheepishly. “I’m very sorry”. Perez nodded once, still watching both the driver and passenger. “I had to get up to eighty to catch up. You were moving pretty fast, man” He stated, before softening his demeanor “Where you heading to, where’s the fire?” “The vault, it’s a nightclub. It’s ladies night” Joaquin nodded again, displaying part of a smile “Cool. I’m gonna go run your information here real quick. Won’t keep you here long” He walked back to the black and white and dropped back into the drivers seat, running the insurance and registration through the computer system, stalling for time and deliberating his next move. Was this guy it? He had the history, but that guy did not gel with that history. Was it an act? Was he trying to kill him with kindness? Maybe. Joaquin ran through the different scenarios in his head before he stepped back out of the black and white. “Fuck it” he grunted to himself, tossing the drivers door of the black and white closed.
Perez walked back up to the sports car, holding Luke’s documentation between his fingers in his left hand, along with his flashlight, while keeping his gun hand empty and down by his side. “Alright Luke, so here’s the problem. You were going pretty fast back there...” Luke nodded apologetically again “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. It’s my fault, I was just in a rush” Joaquin nodded his head, continuing undeterred “Problem is, you were going so fast if I wrote you a ticket I’d probably need to arrest you or at least impound the car. You been arrested before?” Luke slowly nodded “Yeah, long time ago” “When was the last time you were arrested?” Another short, uncomfortable silence followed. “A year, maybe” “Okay. Not on probation or parole right now are you?” Perez asked, keeping his tone sincere. Luke shook his head firmly. “No sir” “Alright, good. Staying on the straight and narrow. Good for you. What’d you get arrested for, if you don’t mind me asking” Another uncomfortable silence “I had something I shouldn’t have” “You got one of those somethings in the car now?” Luke shook his head, gone was the friendly, apologetic motorist. The female passenger sat mute throughout the entire exchange. “You mind if I check?” Joaquin asked, taking a shot in the dark. “Uh, sure. I don’t mind” Perez was somewhat taken aback. ‘Holy shit that actually worked’ he thought to himself, gesturing both Luke and his female passenger out of the car. “Thank you, I appreciate your cooperation. Go ahead and step out of the car for me real quick. Won’t keep you here long” Luke reluctantly climbed out from the low sports car, Perez stared hard at his hands while his own heart rate increased, somewhat.
The female passenger climbed out of the sports car on the other side, both Luke and the female passenger walked to the front of the patrol car. Perez tried to burn holes in Luke’s shirt and waistline with his eyes, hoping that because Luke was wearing skinny jeans - That Joaquin personally despised - he might be able to see the gun, if Luke had one. “Don’t have anything on you, do you?” He asked, almost hesitantly, again taking a shot in the dark. Luke turned around slowly. Joaquin’s elbow connected with the magazine well of the Glock 22 in the holster on his right hip. He knew exactly where it was, if he needed it. Luke’s eyes locked with Joaquin’s for a split second, before his shoulders sunk, somewhat. “Yeah...” he replied, almost casually. ‘What the fuck’ Perez thought, he wasn’t sure if he should draw his own gun or not at this point. “What’ve you got?” He asked instead, feeling his heart rate climb even higher and right hand, in a way, begging to move up onto the Glock 22 in his holster. Joaquin relented and his hand moved up onto the grip of the Glock 22, easing some of the tension he felt in his stomach. “A mini Mac” Luke responded, calmly, now. “Okay... Do me a favor, turn around, and don’t reach for anything” Perez requested, quickly sliding the radio out from the carrier on his duty belt and broadcasting a short request for a cover unit. Perez handcuffed Luke as quickly as he could and ran his hand along Luke’s waist, finding the gun tucked into his waistband at the rear. Joaquin’s eyes widened somewhat when his hand first made contact with the gun, sending a jolt through his body that it was real. ‘Fuck me’ was all he could think, pulling the gun out of Luke’s belt. “I appreciate your honesty” he stated, somewhat stunned at what had just happened. Luke mumbled a response.
Perez sat Luke down in the back of his patrol car after the backup unit arrived, searching the sports car before allowing the female passenger to take it. He didn’t have the heart, nor the desire, to impound another car. On the drive back to the division to process Luke as an arrest, he was still processing the traffic stop in his head, over and over again, both amazed and bewildered. “I gotta ask” Perez said, eventually, during the drive. “Why’d you come clean?” He watched Luke’s handcuffed frame in the back seat in the rear view mirror, Luke seemed to shrug and sigh. “I got sick of doing wrong, I guess” Joaquin nodded, slowing to take a corner. “Why an automatic?” Luke looked out the window. “The girl I was with. She was raped a few months back, before I met her. I wanted to be absolutely sure nothing like that ever happened to her again... That I could handle anything that happened, if it happened” Joaquin just nodded, almost feeling a tinge of guilt until rationalising that this story may be as fictitious as his marriage to Kate Del Castillo. He decided not to dwell on it and drove the last few blocks in silence.
The evening freeway traffic was moving at a brisk pace. The sun was setting over the city, and Joaquin had managed to wake up to his first alarm. He wasn’t speeding, rushing to roll call on time for once. Obs arrests still swirled around his mind as his primary focus, he had even forgotten to plug in his aux cable. Observation arrests had become an addiction. The hunt for a bad guy, stalking what appeared to be viable prey, watching, waiting, formulating a plan of attack and striking. If he got a narcotics arrest that involved a class A substance like cocaine or its rock form cousin, crack cocaine, he was happy. If he got a gun, he was very happy. He took the ‘Downtown’ exit on the freeway and started winding his way through the surface level streets towards Mission Row Division. His iPhone bleeped with a text message in his front left pocket. Joaquin looked briefly around for cops before digging his phone out and looking at the display while stopped at a red light.
‘Sharon: Can you call me?’ Sharon was a trauma nurse that worked at the Central Los Santos Medical Center in South Central that Joaquin had met early in his tenure riding solo on a Lincoln unit. They had bonded over lousy break room coffee, during Joaquin’s almost routine visits to the hospital to take reports from assault and robbery victims. ‘Yeah. What’s up?’ He texted back, autocorrect fixing his spelling before looking back up at the light and accelerating through the intersection. The iPhone bleeped again ‘Sharon: I need a favor. Will explain later. G2g starting work’ He slipped the phone away before turning into the employee parking lot of the division, walking inside carrying his war bag via a side door as usual.
Roll call was lively as usual when Perez walked into the white walled room in his short sleeved uniform, taking a seat at a table and setting his notebook and pen out on the desk in front of him. The topic of conversation for the majority of the room was a recent influx of violence towards police in the past week. Summer always brought with it an increase in violence, this, however, was different. Localised largely to the Chamberlain Hills area of South Central, and ignited by an Officer Involved Shooting the previous weekend. A 17 year old Hispanic gang member had been shot by two Gang Officers from Mission Row Division after reaching into his waistband while fleeing from the two officers on foot. The 17 year old was pronounced dead at the hospital. In an environment like south central, the shooting would be seen by a large portion of the community as an unprovoked act of violence. Such was the case in the vast majority of high crime neighborhoods, where relations with the police department responsible for policing the neighborhood were usually strained at best. South Central was no different. The week following the shooting saw random pot shots taken from project buildings at passing police vehicles, rocks and bottles flung anonymously from alleyways and the doorways of those apartment complexes at officers and more violent arrests.
“See, and this is why you don’t sag your fucking pants! Not reaching to hold ‘em up while you’re running from the cops” Joked one of the older patrol officers. ‘Usually they’re holding their waist while they’re runnin’ means they’ve got a gun. You’re reaching for your waist and I can’t see your hands... Most people in here would’a lit their asses up too. Fuck ‘em” Joaquin pondered the scenario and quickly came to the conclusion he would have pulled the trigger himself in those circumstances. He nodded, glancing over at the loosely encircled group of uniforms. “They don’t pay us enough not to go home” A couple of nods came from the group before the Sergeant walked into the room. The majority of the chatter subsided and most turned to face the front of the room. “Evening” Began the Sergeant “Happy Fourth of July to those of you that have this amazing holiday off” Groans emanated from around the room.
Joaquin’s phone began vibrating continually within his shirt pocket, he opted to ignore it rather than risk interrupting roll call. He let the phone ring out, while the Sergeant continued “As for the rest of us, it’s gonna be a busy weekend. As you all have heard, tensions are high, there’s a lot of unrest and we’ve had double the amount of violent incidents involving officers lately compared to this time last year. This is likely due to, and you all know is, an officer involved shooting from last week. Without going into the details, Chamberlain Hills is considered the hot zone. So be careful out there, okay?” The Sergeant carried on through the speech, eventually handing out fresh warrants and a hot sheet of stolen cars in the division before sending his troops out the door. Joaquin checked his phone while waiting in the fast moving line at the armory ‘Sharon - Missed Call’ He signed out a modified less lethal Remington 870 shotgun from the armory along with the usual model when the line cleared.
Ten minutes later Perez was out on the streets again, swiping through playlists on his iPhone while cruising casually toward the Olympic Freeway, rolling through the monolithic shadow it cast over the border between South Central and Downtown. Eventually he gave up on a specific song and hit shuffle with his thumb, dropping the cellphone back into his shirt pocket, putting both eyes back onto the road. ‘The Game - Spanglish’ began playing from inside the pocket. His next order of business was coffee. Joaquin made a B-Line for the 24 Hour Dunkin Donuts, running the risk of going through the Drive Thru and only ordering coffee. He collected his coffee from the final window before accelerating back out into the traffic on Innocence Boulevard, sipping at the scalding hot coffee in his left hand. The price he had to pay for getting it fast, he shrugged to himself. Perez slowed to a stop at a red light and looked over at a red sedan entering the slip lane on his right, catching a glimpse of the driver’s kinked elbow and the cellphone he held by his left ear. Joaquin shook his head and took another sip of coffee, suddenly remembering he had to call Sharon back. He reached over to the cup holder to set the coffee cup down when a voice droned out from the radio with the hum of an engine and a siren in the background. “Two Adam Fifteen, show us in pursuit of a green motorcycle, eastbound on Innocence from Strawberry. San Andreas plates, Paul Tom Sam, two one three. Request backup and an airship” The female dispatcher took over and repeated the broadcast. Perez shoved the coffee cup into the cup holder after stealing one last sip and started looking for a break in the traffic, the stolen bike was heading right for him. The voices of two Sergeants came over the radio one after the other. “Two Lincoln Thirty, show me responding”, “Two Lincoln Twenty, same traffic”. Additional patrol units intermittently broadcast their responses.
A distant siren coming from behind Perez’s patrol car grew louder as the black and white in the pursuit and its prey drew closer. Perez activated his overhead lights and leant out of his open window, looking back down the boulevard to see the approaching red and blue light bar through the traffic flying towards him with the lone headlight of a motorcycle ahead of it, on the wrong side of the boulevard. The traffic light switched to green, and the traffic around Perez’s car began to move hesitantly forward. The traffic staring down the barrel at the oncoming motorcycle and black and white sat sat still. Perez glanced at the driver in the lane to his left and saw a wide eyed ‘deer in the headlights’ look. He turned his steering wheel to the left and nosed his patrol car into the newly formed gap, cutting in front of the driver mesmerised by the pursuit, gunning his engine and accelerating out from the loose gridlock of cars and onto the wrong side of the boulevard, falling in behind the black and white tearing through a left turn at the intersection, on the bike’s tail. The lead unit in the pursuit broadcast a brief update after the turn “Suspect northbound on Davis”. Perez snatched the radio mic from its cradle and put out a hasty broadcast while steering slightly over to the left, trying to get a look at the traffic ahead. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, show me secondary in pursuit”. He set the radio mic back into the cradle and gripped the steering wheel in both hands, applying enough brake power to safely turn through the next corner.
A new voice came through on the radio with a heavy engine and rotor blades slicing through the air in the background. “Air One, Two Adam Fifteen, we’re above you, southbound on Little Bighorn” Perez couldn’t even hear the helicopter overhead, but relaxed on the accelerator regardless. He liked driving fast, but hated writing damage reports more. With the eye in the sky, he could relax a little. The pursuit flew down a short hill and underneath an overpass, running southbound, parallel to the east LS river into the industrial part of the division. Perez caught glimpses of the fleeing motorcycle with every minor arc in the pothole ridden road. The motorcycle abruptly steered off of the black tarmac and onto the sidewalk, flying along the deserted white concrete between street lights and fences separating factories and desolate parking lots from the street at 60 miles an hour. The occupants of the two black and whites following parallel on the road felt as if they were hitting every pothole in the city on one street. One particularly vicious bump Perez’s patrol car bounced over threw a splash of coffee onto his right thigh, prompting a nasty reaction. “Cock sucker!” Perez yelled, more so at the biker than the coffee.
The pursuit turned out onto Carson Avenue, a main thoroughfare that ran east-west through South Central with the air unit overhead broadcasting updates. “Westbound on Carson” The lead unit swung around the corner in a wide turn, Perez activated his siren for the first time since the pursuit started. The motorcycle swung over onto the wrong side of the road again and revved its engine, flying towards the intersection criss-crossed with train tracks, Carson Avenue and Roy Lowenstein Boulevard. Perez pushed his foot harder onto the accelerator, darting his eyes back and forth between the bike and the patrol car in front of him negotiating the light evening traffic. The motorcycle and two patrol cars flew through the intersection at 70 miles an hour. Adrenaline had been released into Perez’s system and his heart rate had spiked. “Westbound on Carson, approaching Davis” broadcast the air unit. The two patrol cars sped through the red light at the intersection, briefly slowing to weave around one lone car that dared to run the gauntlet. The motorcycle pressed on, switching across to the right side of the road and flying past the corner Joaquin’s favorite taco stand stood, with the two black and whites following behind. “Crossing Strawberry, still west on Carson” broadcast the air unit. “Two Lincoln Twenty, I’m set up at Carson and Innocence to intercept” broadcast one of the Sergeants, from two blocks ahead.
The motorcycle accelerated up a slight incline in the road, the two black and whites still on its tail. The motorcycle crest the hill and disappeared from lead unit and Perez’s sight. “Suspect’s approaching Innocence, west on Carson- Hold on, stand by, he’s making a U-Turn. East on Carson, number two lane”. Perez floored his brakes and began throwing his steering wheel around, whirling the patrol car around into a U-Turn as the bike flew back past him. Perez hit his accelerator once more and flew back down Carson Avenue, keying his radio mic. “Suspect’s a male, green jacket, jeans” He broadcast before wrenching the steering wheel to the left to avoid an old sedan that had edged out into the intersection ahead. “Near miss - suspect’s east on Carson, just crossed Strawberry, approaching Davis” Broadcast the air unit. Perez put his foot back down and pushed the engine in the black and white harder, darting his eyes between the traffic at the rapidly approaching intersection and the bike. Both the black and white and motorcycle flew through the intersection, mild bumps in the road rocked the frame of Perez’s black and white back and forth as he accelerated beneath the red traffic lights at 75 miles an hour.
“Suspect crossed Davis, still east on Carson... Crossing Brogue, still eastbound” The motorcycle kept true on its course, Perez staying behind it and stealing a glance in his rear view. The red and blue lights on another black and white behind his own came as a reassuring sight. “Suspect crossing Lowenstein, still eastbound on Carson” Broadcast the airship. Perez braked mildly, glancing around the intersection before accelerating through it, fixating his gaze on the lone red tail light approaching the next intersection of Jamestown Street. Joaquin’s’ eyes followed the lone tail light as it swung around to the right. “South on Jamestown” Broadcast the pilot from overhead. Perez caught sight of the helicopter for the first time as it swung out and over the complex of government funded low rise apartment buildings. The pilot’s voice followed up on the radio again “Suspect’s just entered the apartment complex on the sidewalk through the central parking lot, still on the bike. He’s heading northbound through the- Disregard, he’s hooking around and exiting the complex at the parking lot. Meanwhile, Perez turned right onto Jamestown Street and braked to a halt, hopping out from the driver’s seat and running back to the trunk. The second black and white flew past Joaquin’s stationary black and white and turned into the central parking lot. Perez pulled the modified less lethal Remington 870 out from the trunk while the transmissions continued unabated on his radio. “Suspect’s northbound back into the projects on the sidewalk” broadcast the pilot. “He still on the bike?” Queried one of the Sergeants with a siren in the background of his transmission “Affirm” came the reply from the pilot.
Perez threw the trunk of his car closed and turned around, running at a sprint with the less lethal shotgun in both hands towards the north side of the complex of low rise apartment blocks. “Suspect’s stationary in the northern area of the Jamestown Projects” broadcast the pilot from above. Perez ran into the grouped low rise buildings, disengaging the safety on the modified Remington 870. A flickering yet harsh white spotlight from the helicopter above lit up the courtyard area Perez had run into, bathing the off-blue buildings, blackened concrete and grass in a shade of white. At the center of the harsh stream of light sat a blonde Caucasian man in his 20s, straddling a green motorcycle on the strip of sidewalk that ran through the center of the courtyard, looking down at a cellphone in both hands. He looked up and around as the light hit, locking eyes with Perez and the Remington 870 outstretched in his hands. The rider accelerated as a beanbag round struck him in the shoulder, he lost his grip and fell onto the sidewalk as the bike lurched forward from under him, skidding across the grass and into one of the apartment buildings. “Don’t fucking move!” Perez yelled, moving closer to the man on the ground, pumping the action on the shotgun. The man rolled onto his right side and began to push himself up, slipping a spring loaded pocket knife out from his jacket. “Stay on the ground!” Yelled Perez, sliding his finger into the trigger guard of the shotgun again. Perez began his approach, watching the man over the barrel of the shotgun as he closed in. The blade sprung out from the grip of the palmed knife whilst the man lunged forward at Perez, slashing downwards at his left arm with the serrated blade slicing through Joaquin’s flesh.
Perez reactively fired the next beanbag round into the man’s shoulder, sending him backwards. Joaquin yanked his left arm back after the sharp impact and looked down at it, feeling as if he’d been punched by something with an unnatural curve. His eyes rolled back up to focus on the man moving back towards him, mid-stride for a follow up with the stainless steel blade in hand, glinting in the spotlight. Perez threw the modified shotgun at him and reached down for his Glock, tearing the .40 caliber handgun out from the holster before squeezing the trigger back as soon as the barrel of the gun cleared the synthetic leather. Perez fired a total of ten rounds at the man while backpedaling blindly. Eight of the ten rounds found their mark and entered the chest cavity and abdomen of the man, who staggered forward before collapsing, his upper half from his sternum and up in the overgrown grass. His legs and waist slightly elevated on the sidewalk.
Perez, ears ringing, eyes locked on the man, stepped on a tuft of wet grass in his haste to move backwards and sent his left foot flying out from under him. He landed on his back and threw his left hand down to break his fall, all the while focusing on the man lying prone half on the grass 12 feet away, breathing heavily while still holding the Glock 22 up in his outstretched right hand. Several seconds passed, he started to push himself back up to his feet with his left hand, keeping the gun pointed down at the man. The rampant radio traffic from the air support unit overhead eventually faded through the ringing in his ears. “Air One, shots fired, Jamestown projects. Officer needs help” Joaquin could hear sirens in every direction, feeling exposed he looked back over his right shoulder without moving the gun in his right hand to see a crowd of locals standing a short distance away, some staring, one yelling “Motherfucking cop shot him for no reason!” Joaquin looked back around at the man lying on his stomach, not moving. He reached for his radio and keyed the mic. “Two Lincoln Eighteen, shots fired, Jamestown Projects north! I got one suspect down, get me an RA unit!” He shoved the radio back into the carrier on his belt as two electronic beeps cut through the ensuing pandemonium on the frequency. A dispatcher’s voice followed the emergency tone. “All units, shots fired Jamestown projects, north. Officer needs help. One suspect down”
Twenty seconds passed, to Perez it felt like twenty minutes, until the black and white that had entered the complex’s central parking lot came tearing around the corner into the small parking lot behind him. Two officers leapt from the car and rushed towards Joaquin and the suspect. “I’m good! Get HIM!” Perez yelled, keeping the Glock pointed down at the man with both hands. Two more black and whites slammed their brakes on in the parking lot behind him. The parking lot and northern side of the low rise apartments had become awash with red and blue lights. Joaquin’s hearing and senses gradually began to return. He heard the growing crowd speculating and yelling, the helicopter overhead, the chaotic radio traffic blaring out from his waist. The smell of gun powder drifted in and out. One of the two uniforms first to arrive scraped the knife out of the man’s hand with his boot before he and his partner handcuffed the man behind his back. A Sergeant by the name of Harrelson, a black man in his 40s with a bald head and trimmed facial hair walked up alongside Perez as he re-holstered his Glock 22. The Sergeant’s eyes went between Joaquin and the man in handcuffs, now leaking a small pool of blood onto both the concrete sidewalk and grass. “You okay, kid?” Joaquin’s eyes followed the Sergeant’s, he nodded. “What was it, a gun?” Perez shook his head and tried to lick his dry lips, his mouth was almost as dry. He cleared his throat and shook his head again, forcing the word out. “Knife” Harrelson nodded slowly, before his eyes went down to Joaquin’s left arm, he slid a flashlight out from his belt and turned it on, lighting up the stream of blood running down Joaquin’s forearm onto his wrist and hand. “Shit”
One week later. Joaquin sat back in the skeletal chair in the corner of the cafe wearing a green polo shirt and jeans, giving himself a wide line of sight across the floor space from the counter along the wall on his left to the entrance and front windows off to his right. Joaquin set his iPhone on top of the small round coffee table beside a discarded copy of the Los Santos Times, picking up the newspaper by the corner and skimming the front page article ‘Dismal job figures jolt confidence’. His phone buzzed and a text message appeared on the screen. ‘Sharon: He said he’s wearing a white shirt and khakis’ Joaquin opened the newspaper completely and slid it beneath his phone, darting his eyes between the open newspaper and the door. Two minutes passed, the glass door opened and customers regularly flowed through, congregating at and around the counter, no familiar faces. Perez assumed parking outside could only have gotten worse, another reason he didn’t like Vinewood. The major reasons included the homeless drug addicts, vagrants, scam artists and prostitutes of every age and persuasion littering the streets, especially at night. Other reasons were more trivial, the knockoff characters on Vinewood Boulevard charging $10 to tourists for photographs, the guided tours of celebrity homes and general sleaze underneath the facade of glitz, glamor and stardom. A waitress brought over a wide mug of coffee on a saucer and set it down on the table by Joaquin, bringing him back to reality. He smiled and readily accepted the mug, nodding his thanks before using two hands to take a sip. The small ceramic loop for a handle was barely big enough to fit one of his fingers through.
The door swung open and an older white man with thinning white hair and creased leather-like skin stepped through, looking a little out of place as he stood by the door and scanned the room more. Perez sipped at his coffee and watched as the man eventually walked over to a table by the window where the blonde Sharon sat. Joaquin watched as she stood and the two exchanged awkward greetings, opting for a loose handshake instead of a hug after a moment’s hesitation. Joaquin watched them sit opposite one another and enter into a visibly awkward conversation, sitting back and bringing the newspaper up in his left hand to pretend he was reading it. The conversation between the man and Sharon dragged on. The novelty of covert observation began to wear off fast and turn to boredom. Joaquin’s mind began wandering, the sleep deprivation did nothing to help him concentrate either. He felt confident this man sitting opposite Sharon had no violent or ill intentions in that moment, that said, how could he be sure. Boredom and monotony can lead to complacency... What if Sharon said something that angered this man enough that he snapped? What if he dropped the facade and attacked her? Perez shut off his train of thought after envisioning the circumstances going sideways, the sleep deprivation wasn’t helping him think clearly either... He thought about throwing the table aside, sprinting across the room, getting as close as he could to shoot this man in the head at close range, minimising his chances of missing, all whilst either Sharon or some bystander were being stabbed to death by this man... Joaquin rolled his eyes at himself and tried to force himself to focus on the newspaper. The article was dry and boring. Perez’s eyes went back up to Sharon’s table, his hand dropped down his waist to do a confidence check on the Glock 23 stowed in an inside-the-waistband holster. “Fuck this” He huffed to himself.
After forty minutes of awkward conversation, Sharon and the man rose from their seats, saying goodbye. Sharon turned and walked into the Ladies’ room at the back the cafe, the man exited out of the front door and left. Joaquin sat back and threw the newspaper back onto the table, sighing and retrieving his iPhone, scrolling through emails. Sharon walked back out of the bathroom and sat down opposite Joaquin, looking both uncertain and yet relieved. “So how’d it go?” Asked Perez, slipping the cellphone back into his pocket before finishing off the last dregs of his coffee. “Good, I think?” She responded, rubbing her left wrist. ”He say much...?” Joaquin asked, testing the waters. “Something, I guess... Said he was sorry, he was young, stupid, hasn’t stopped regretting it” Joaquin nodded his head slowly. “Then he just asked about me, what I’ve been doing. Didn’t ask about my sister or my Mom” Sharon continued, sliding towards the edge of her seat. Her eyes stared off into space, past Joaquin’s head as she recounted the details of the conversation. “Which was, weird, so I told him... Nurse, not married, no kids, and asked him about his life... He’s not with her anymore, but married, has two more kids that’re in elementary school, quit drinking and works in an auto repair shop” She trailed off into momentary silence. Sharon’s eyes eventually snapped back onto Joaquin, an awkward smile forced itself onto her face. “Sorry” Perez shrugged, reaching for his empty coffee cup and glancing inside “It’s okay” He responded, setting the cup back down “I thought for years about what I’d say if I ever met him or saw him, had it all planned out... And I couldn’t remember any of it” Perez nodded reassuringly and offered a shrug. “It happens. Sounds like it went okay, over all” Sharon hesitated, then slowly nodded. “You’re right... It was o.k” She paused again and looked back up at Joaquin from the newspaper and empty cup on the table. “Oh, thank you so much for doing this for me. I really appreciate it... Felt a lot better knowing you were back here” Perez shrugged again “No problem, don’t sweat it. I had my scheduled cleared for me. Kinda glad to be out of the house” Sharon nodded again, her demeanor shifted to one of concern from distant thought. “How are you, anyway?” Joaquin’s head wavered briefly, unsure how to answer. “I’m okay” “How’s your arm?” Joaquin held up his elbow and forearm, displaying the adhesive gauze between his elbow and wrist. “Almost back to normal” Sharon leant forward and peeled the adhesive tape aside, inspecting the wound up close before returning the tape to the skin. “It’s looking a lot better” “Good. I can’t stay home forever, I’m losing my mind...”
“You still staying with your Mom?” Joaquin nodded wearily ”It got old six months ago... Gonna lose my mind at this rate. Almost wouldn’t let me leave this morning. Supposed to be temporary, while Josue’s in and outta the hospital” Perez rolled his eyes and almost reached for the coffee cup again. Sharon nodded her understanding, before changing the subject. “So what happened, after you left the hospital that night?” Joaquin sighed and rolled the events back through his head to form an abridged version. “Got driven back to the division, met the suits, they took my gun, gave me a new one... Walked them through it a few times, they asked some questions, let me go. Paid leave” Joaquin paused, skimming the vast majority of the details. “Gotta go back in a week or two... Probably talk to a shrink” He jerked his shoulders dismissively upward, collecting his iPhone from the table. “You wanna get outta here?” Perez asked, darting his eyes around the cafe as the number of patrons slowly increased “Lunch crowd’s probably about to hit” Shannon looked back around and nodded “Sure”.
“Six Adam fifteen!” Huffed an officer through his handheld radio “Foot pursuit, male white, tank top, black shorts! Westbound on Nikola!” The same officer half yelled into his radio while running hard down the sidewalk, his eyes locked on the fleeing suspect increasing the distance between them, crossing the street lined on each side by upper-middle class houses.
The radio in the patrol car slightly less than a mile away relayed the officer’s calls. Joaquin, seated in the drivers seat of the older model black and white - one of the few of that year still in service - increased the pressure on the accelerator, gunning the old patrol car up the double lane boulevard slightly faster than he probably needed to, mildly regretting that decision upon reaching the intersection crossing Nikola and having to squeeze on slightly more brake power. The foot pursuit was close, very close, his heart rate had jumped when the street name went out - ‘Nikola’ - “I’m barely a few blocks away!” He thought before flooring the accelerator, briefly glancing down to activate the overhead lights and siren. Usually, all the dust had settled and everything was over by the time he arrived at a ‘hot shot’; an active call. Adrenaline had been released into his system, and was only building when he turned the car onto Nikola, thinking “I’m so close, I’m gonna get into that mix” all the while his heart rate increased. A young 20-something with a uniform, badge and gun, a “P-Two Pup” with barely a year off of probation, still spent his time like most fresh P-2s, chasing that rush, looking to get into the mix.
The patrol car flew down the street and passed the pursuing officer on foot, Joaquin, rushing a transmission on his own car’s radio advising of his arrival, cut the siren and squeezed on the brakes with his eyes locked onto the suspect, who was in the midst of diagonally traversing the street. The suspect’s head whipped around to catch the front bumper of the black hood of the patrol car fly right past his kicking legs, mounting the curb with one tire. The suspect, instinctively veering away from the patrol car, ran back into the middle of the street while Joaquin, feeling as if he had never taken so long to get out of a car in his life, clambered out of the driver’s seat after jolting the car to a stop with the help of his brakes and the curb. Amped up on adrenaline, Perez tore around the front of the engine block, sprinting down the residential street after the now-tiring suspect, yelling. “Stop, asshole!” Having already run a considerable distance with another uniformed officer behind him, the suspect threw a glance back over his shoulder and pushed himself to run harder, finding fresh motivation in having another pursuer on his tail.
Perez began closing his distance on the mildly bulky suspect, only to have a second patrol car swerve around his and the suspect’s left side. The suspect, stumbled and halted in his tracks before brought his hands up toward his shoulders in the universal sign of surrender as a Sergeant emerged from the drivers seat, off-green Remington 870 in hand. “I’m done” offered the now-static man, hands positioned in front of his chest. Perez, all the while yelling “Get on the ground!”, and locked into a dead sprint, collided with the suspect, sending both of them to the ground. “I’m done, I’m done! I’m not resisting!” Yelled the man from the road, all the while the overhyped P2 yanked on his elbows, trying to grab hold of his forearms and wrists. They were joined ten seconds later by the initial pursuing officer, Timothy Spencer, who put out the radio call, breathing hard after the explosive sprint down the slightly inclined residential street. Perez and the pursuing officer snapped handcuffs onto the suspect’s fleshy wrists and rolled him onto his right side. Perez, Spencer, and the suspect were all visibly puffed and breathing hard. Spencer held onto the handcuffed suspect’s elbow while Perez reached over and around the handcuffed man’s waistline, patting down his clothing and pockets in a typical preliminary fashion. Perez’s hand stopped around the front of the suspect’s waist, after his hand felt something solid in the man’s waistband. A feeling of dread materialised in Joaquin’s stomach, his thoughts swirled with “Either this motherfucker has a gun or I’ve just given him a reach around” Biting his tongue, he pulled the suspect’s tank top upward to reveal a Skorpion vz. 61 machine pistol sitting in the man’s waistband, below his Stomach plastered with Neo-Nazi tattoos. Perez yanked the gun out from his belt, both unnerved and relieved at the same time, handing the firearm off to Spencer before thoroughly and almost aggressively searching the rest of their new prisoner’s clothing, digging through all of his pockets and checking his socks.
Spencer and Perez rolled the suspect over onto his butt and exchanged glances before looking up to acknowledge the Sergeant, who had by now circled his own patrol car at the rear. “What’d you find?” Spencer held up the gun, before fumbling around looking for the magazine release and clearing the chamber while the Sergeant nodded, Joaquin’s left hand stayed on the suspect’s shoulder and neck. “Alright, transport him and get him booked. I’m gonna head back up the street to that clusterfuck. He’s your responsibility” the Sergeant nodded to Spencer, and with that he turned on his right foot and went back to his patrol car. Leaving the two officers and the handcuffed felon still breathing heavily on the sidewalk. “You got wheels or you need a ride? - I’ll transport him for you” said Perez, Spencer replied with an upwards nod “Sounds good. My car’s up the block” The two uniformed P2s hauled the handcuffed suspect up from his undignified seating on the road at their feet, starting his walk of shame back to the black and white Perez had half-mounted the curb with.
After seating their suspect in the back seat of the slightly inclined car, the two officers began sealing the machine pistol and the magazines up in separate evidence bags by the trunk and back seat of the car. “Why’d he run anyway?’ Perez queried, the adrenaline finally starting to taper down. “We were gonna hook him after a fight at the mall... Same story. This moron and his Hitler youth group out picking fights at malls in the suburbs on Friday night” Perez rolled his eyes before looking to the evidence bags, scribbling semi-legible handwriting onto the blank fields on the outside, using the outer surface of the patrol car as a makeshift desk. “See you back at division?” “No doubt” Both officers parted ways.
Back at Division, the police station located at the corner of Vinewood Boulevard and Elgin Avenue, the monotonous process of processing an arrest began. Joaquin backed the patrol car into the sally port garage, located on the Elgin Avenue side of the building. The only interior door in the small garage lead through to the basement and holding area. Spencer emerged from the door and approached the rear of the stationary patrol car with Joaquin, the two uniformed officers removed their prisoner and escorted him through the doorway and hallway, past numerous holding cells and into the dingy, bare bones processing room of the Vinewood Police Station. Stepping into the processing room was akin to stepping 30 years into the past. The room was relatively bare with almost every expense spared, offering simple government issue office furnishings, a metal desk, a metal stationary cupboard, an office chair that always seemed to be broken, a height chart, checkered linoleum flooring, brickwork walls painted an off-yellow and fluorescent lighting. The only modern appliances in the room were a computer terminal with a keyboard with keys that occasionally got stuck, a mounted camera, digital fingerprinting technology and security cameras.
Spencer approached the metal desk and pecked at the keyboard, meanwhile the handcuffed prisoner strode wordlessly into the foreground of the dingy processing room and turned to face Perez and Spencer with his back to the height chart, head tilted off to one side, projecting a dead expression of tired familiarity, erring on boredom. Perez hung by the desk and merely observed Spencer process the suspect, observing their prisoner’s body language and demeanour with a subdued curiosity, justifying his presence in his own mind with the possibility of a prisoner being more likely to try his luck, feeling the odds of a successful escape were more in his favor if there was only one officer in the isolated processing room instead of two, and that one officer was preoccupied with trying to get the ‘R’ key unstuck.
Throughout the booking process, the prisoner’s demeanour remained relatively subdued, calm. He was collected, disinterested in the goings-on but nonetheless cooperative. Providing his name when asked, submitting to fingerprinting and a DNA swab of the inside of his cheek. Perez’s internal monologue likened his demeanour to that of somebody waiting in line at the DMV, a tedious and boring experience the government subjects its citizens to.
The tattoos peaking out from under the prisoner’s white tank top and on his arms also held Perez’s attention, the larger pieces, namely a German iron cross and other Neo Nazi indica had likely been professionally drawn and applied. Some of the others visibly on the prisoner’s arms and below his collar bone, a simple swastika and the characters “F T P” were skeletal in their appearance and extremely basic, straight lines making up the lettering - prison tattoos, applied with jury rigged tattoo guns typically constructed with small motors and pens by bored inmates locked away in a state correctional facility. The small clues began aligning themselves logically in Perez’s mind, their prisoner had quite likely spent time in prison. From there, he reasoned in all probability their suspect a convicted felon, possibly on parole and almost certainly affiliated with an influential prison gang - the gun the two cops had pulled off of him wasn’t something the average small time thug carried around with
The suspect’s demeanor and attitude towards the arrest process began to make sense... To a felon who had spent the majority of his adult life in prison or in and out of the system, being processed into a detention facility was pretty close to waiting in line at the DMV. The ugly finale to that train of thought was that if this individual was who he had appeared, he was certainly more than capable of being violent towards law enforcement. He had the means, Perez reasoned, the gun, and the opportunity to shoot it out if he wanted to. But, in all probability, decided he probably wasn’t getting out of the encounter with his freedom, being outnumbered and pursued by vehicles as well as uniforms on foot. Had Spencer been alone, isolated from help, and the only thing between a career criminal facing more years on the inside and his freedom, things may have turned out quite differently. Perez shoved that last thought into the back of his mind, intent on remembering how badly that incident could have ended up had this guy /wanted/ to kill him, not wanting to dwell on it either. Opting to believe they were dealing with a bona fide bad guy, Perez hung by Spencer until the arrest process was complete and all that was left was booking evidence and giving a keyboard in the report writing room a workout.
Joaquin left the report writing room and headed for the break room, thumbing a text message into his iPhone while waiting for the coffee to brew. ‘Will b late. Caught 1, cutting paper’, slipping the phone back into his left breast pocket along with his notepad before pouring himself a cup of the police station quality coffee. Perez’s phone buzzed twice, Shannon had replied ‘Ok. Any idea how late?’ ‘Not long’ Joaquin tapped onto the digital keypad, starting the walk back down the hallway sipping at the paper coffee cup with one hand and texting with the other, following up his previous message with ‘Short supplemental report’. Sharon replied immediately ‘Ok 😘’. An office door swung open and a Sergeant stepped blindly out into the hallway, nearly colliding with Perez. “Shit, my bad, Sarge” The Sergeant, an older man in his 40s grunted unintelligibly about millennials and headed down the hallway for the break room. Perez walked briskly back to the report writing room and resumed his seat, tossing back to the last page in his coffee stained notebook before resuming the abuse of the keyboard, that had likely been a public servant longer than Joaquin, in his nearly-4 years on the job.
Perez left the station about as late as he expected, driving a shorter distance home, compared to his old commute, back to the apartment he shared with Sharon in the valley. Joaquin sat down at the table by the window, setting the half-empty water bottle down onto the table by his plate. Sharon walked over from the kitchen with a bottle of wine and two glasses, sitting down at the table to Joaquin’s left before Forks went into the grilled chicken and salad covering both plates. “How was work?” Perez asked after working his way through half of the food on his plate. “Not bad... Had a stabbing victim up first, couple girls in labor came through, guy with a bottle of hot sauce shoved up his butt” Joaquin shook his head dismissively while shoving another forkful of salad into his mouth. “That’s good. Bet I can top it though” Joaquin chuckled after finishing the mouthful. Shannon gestured for him to continue with her fork, setting her elbow on top of the table. “Took a report at like three in the afternoon, guy had broken into this place, stolen a TV, some jewellery, loose cash... And jerked off over all these open drawers full of women’s clothing before he left” Shannon scoffed and shook her head. “But why?’ Joaquin threw both shoulders up, genuinely mystified and laughed. “If I knew, I don’t think most normal people’d understand. That’s a psychological rabbit hole I don’t want to go down... At least he left us plenty of DNA” Shannon rolled her eyes, more confused than disgusted. “I don’t care why” Joaquin added. “Just gonna deal with him if we catch him...” “You should put out a poster” Shannon offered between mouthfuls. Joaquin looked up at Shannon from his dinner again with an arched eyebrow, Shannon continued. “Have you seen the seaman bandit? - He may be coming for you next” Perez rolled his eyes back at her before the immature part of his brain took hold, he snickered and went back to his dinner.
Sharon and Joaquin finished dinner and scrubbed both dishes in the kitchen sink, while the TV ran in the background. “I’m going back to nights in a week” Joaquin said as he slid the first plate into the drying rack. “Okay. Should I set that dinner with Jenny and Henry up for Thursday? Sharon replied, walking around behind Perez and setting the two wine glasses dripping with soapy water into the drying rack. “Yeah, definitely. That’s my Friday” Shannon nodded and pulled her phone out, tapping away at a text message. Joaquin slid the last plate into the drying rack and walked out of the kitchen area to the living area, swiping his Oakley sunglasses off of the table he and Shannon had eaten dinner. Perez’s ears picked up the TV clearly, at its low volume. ‘Two keys issues in this election are going to be about the war on terror, and gun control. President Obama has made it clear, he-‘ Joaquin looked up to see Hannity on the screen, summarising his talking points. Joaquin paused, half listening before picking up the remote and shutting the screen off. “I’m gonna take a shower, babe” Joaquin called back to Sharon, still looking at her phone, while he headed for the bathroom. “Okay, be there soon” Came the reply.
Joaquin rolled the patrol car along Vinewood Boulevard with both windows down, scanning the clumps of pedestrians, mostly tourists on the sidewalk through his sunglasses. ‘Why’d anyone in their right mind pay twenty bucks for a picture with that?’ He pondered to himself, rehashing an old pet peeve while passing a family of tourists crowding up with a minorly-overweight knockoff Spider-Man in front of a photographer. A low sports car overtaking his patrol car, blaring “No Love - Eminem ft Lil Wayne” from its sound system brought Joaquin back to reality, and left the fast paced song in the back of his head. “Any available Vinewood unit, officer requesting additional unit, report of domestic disturbance...” rattled a female dispatcher through the radio in the patrol car, concluding the broadcast with an address and request for a responding unit to identify. Perez swiped the radio mic from the cradle with his right hand, keying the mic while eyeing the car blaring the Eminem track ahead. “Six Lincoln Thirteen, show me en route to back” He set the radio mic back into the cradle and glanced down at his side view mirror, before throwing the patrol car into a left turn and accelerating through an intersection in a risky gambit to beat traffic.
“Six Lincoln Thirteen, code six on 233 Spanish Avenue” Perez stated to the keyed radio mic in his left hand after rolling the patrol car into a halt behind another black and white. A grey 10 storey concrete apartment building, originally constructed in the 1940s loomed over the avenue to his right. Perez walked into the enclosed courtyard, scanning the balcony-like walkways spanning the courtyard-face of the building. He spotted two patrol officers he knew in passing as Craig and Tomas, standing at the foot of a stairwell ascending the south-east corner of the building. Craig was a 6’1” white guy in his 30s with a shaved head and linebacker’s build. Tomas was 5’8” and wiry with short black hair. Perez walked toward the duo and exchanged nods before the trio began climbing the stairs. “Been here before?” Perez asked “Nah, not us” replied Craig, with a shake of his head. “What’’s it gonna be this time” Tomas continued as the trio ascended the stairway “Last double-D we caught was a kid screaming over his brother beating his ass for cracking a 9/11 jo-“ A piercing scream and the sound of glass breaking cut through the conversation from the landing at the top of the stairway. Joaquin, Craig and Tomas tore up the last few stairs after a stunned silence, sprinting the length of the landing toward the front window of an apartment with a welcome mat of broken glass below the sill. “Six A Eighteen, get me a backup code 3” Tomas hastily put out on the radio while Craig turned and threw a mule kick into the apartment door. The door jolted inward, the wooden frame badly straining chain lock. “Police Department!” Yelled Tomas through the window over the barrel of the Glock 22 in his right hand. Joaquin yanked the baton out from his waist and cleared the last of the glass on the window, trying to move the blinds. “John, calm down!” Yelled a female from within the apartment “Fuck you!” Replied the male half of the equation in a thick foreign accent.
Craig’s third kick threw the door open wide enough for Tomas and Joaquin to slip through into the apartment, abandoning the window option. “Police!” Once his eyes adjusted to the lower light, Joaquin spotted a squatting frame in the bathroom at the rear of the small hotel-like apartment. Perez and Tomas flew across the room, seeing the back of a naked 230 lb white man with a pair of much slimmer legs, on the floor, sticking out between the man’s legs. Tomas holstered his gun and wrapped both arms around the man’s neck and head from behind, clamping on pressure and rolling the heavyset man off of the much smaller woman, lying sprawled on the tiled floor in a bathrobe. “Get on the fucking ground!” Tomas instinctively yelled while the two rolled around on the bathroom floor. Joaquin looked briefly over the woman, who was slowly starting to sit up, coughing and holding her neck. He heard Craig knock the door open behind him, and lunged down into the melee to his right. The heavyset man was on all fours and started to stand up, pushing Tomas, still on his back, into the plexiglass shower in the corner of the room. Tomas’ choke hold had slipped from an effective position, he was left hanging onto the back of the much larger man, trying to kick him in the ankles. The man gasped to get some more air into his lungs, while Joaquin swung his baton at the man’s left arm, missing and striking the shower, knocking a piece of the plexiglass out and creating a large crack. Perez changed tac and punched in the man in the face with his empty hand, having seemingly no effect. Tomas moved upward, attempting to regain the choke hold, the man elbowed Tomas in the ribs and threw him up against the shower once more, Perez dropped his baton and punched the man in the face several times, starting a mild flow of blood. The man lunged forward and collected Joaquin with his broad shoulders, sending the 24 year old into the tiled wall with a clatter and sharp thud.
Craig burst into the room and took a sparing glance over the woman, who had pushed herself into the corner of the room before rushing the wrestling trio, shoving all them against the wall and into a corner of the room. “I’ll fucking kill you!” I’ll kill you! I’ll I kill you!” Roared the heavyset man, almost hysterically. Tomas got the crook of his arm back around the man’s windpipe and reapplied his chokehold. Perez tried to raise his baton and dumped it instead, fearing he’d hit Craig afraid of hitting either Craig or Tomas in the scuffle. “He’s on something!” Yelled Craig, punching the man in the ribs several times with uppercut strikes. Tomas slipped again and lost his grip, meanwhile Joaquin tried to jam his right hip with his gun into the corner to make it as hard to get as possible and punch the raging naked man and not Tomas. The heavyset suspect clawed at Perez’s uniform while trying to hit Craig and throw or elbow Tomas off of his back in a flurry of uncontrolled aggression, he briefly grabbed hold of Joaquin’s badge until Craig’s fist catapulted his head into the tiled wall. Tomas dropped off from the back of the suspect and pulled the X26 Taser from his belt, sweeping the cartridge and jamming the taser into the small of the man’s back. “Don’t!” Yelled Craig, Tomas fumbled the taser and instead pulled his radio, keying the mic and yelling “Officer need help, Spanish Avenue D-D!” Tomas tossed the radio and pulled his baton, slamming the stick into the back of the man’s legs. Joaquin punched and elbowed the raging man in the face, moving from angry to furious as the suspect slammed him into the tiled wall repeatedly. A flailing arm hit Joaquin in the face and broke his skin. “Motherfucker!” Roared Perez and clambered upwards, trying to throw more strikes. The man’s legs wavered under the blows struck by Tomas, Craig sank his elbow into the back of the man’s shaved skull and threw his weight in behind it, taking himself, the suspect and Joaquin to the tiled floor again in a messr of arms, legs, boots and blood.
Tomas dropped onto the man’s legs and began hitting the man in the ribs with the butt of his baton. Perez tried to push himself back from the mess, only making it a few inches before hitting the wall, opting to hit the man in the face again when the opportunity presented. Craig climbed on top of the grunting suspect and yanked the suspect’s left arm up by his elbow, wrenching the wrist around behind his back. Perez got back to his feet and dropped his knee onto the naked man’s shoulder, pressing his face against the blood smeared tiled floor with his leg. Tomas pried the man’s right hand out from beneath his body by leveraging the baton in the man’s elbow. Craig got the first set of handcuffs on to the heavyset suspect’s left wrist, Tomas and Joaquin cuffed the right wrist and linked the two sets of handcuffs together.
All three uniforms exchanged glances, breathing heavily, and keeping all of their weight on top of the one man riot. The fight had landed less than two minutes. It felt more like twenty. Tomas pulled his radio off from the floor and keyed the mic “Six Adam Eighteen, one in custody... We need an R-A unit and a supervisor”.
Perez sat on the back of an ambulance on the street outside the apartment building while an EMT treated the cut to his face, checked the back of his head and kept asking him test questions to see if he had a concussion. The suspect was rolled into another ambulance, handcuffed and strapped down to the gurney. “What the hell was that dude on? Meth?” Asked Joaquin, trying to look up at the EMT while she stood over him, annoyed. “Probably, or some other stimulant” she responded, before tilting his head back down and returning her attention to the back of Joaquin’s head. “Hold still” Perez rolled his eyes before trying to watch the EMTs roll the gurney bearing the full weight of the man set to be the focus of yet another onslaught of report writing.
“You good, bro?” Asked Tomas from the right, Joaquin turned his head slightly to look at him. “We’ll see. If I got brain damage, I might get a week off” “Like anyone’d notice if your stupid ass had brain damage” Tomas replied with a cocky smirk on his face. The EMT examining the back of Joaquin’s head snickered, before reaching back into the ambulance and digging through the BLS kit sitting by the doorway. Joaquin rolled his eyes, which left him feeling somewhat disoriented. He cleared his head and dug his phone out, thumbing a text message into the keypad on the open thread. “Going to be late tonight”
Joaquin walked into the apartment two hours late and threw his war bag down by the door. Sharon got up from the small table where her phone was charging and walked up, pulling him into a hug and giving him a peck on the lips. “How’s your head?” Joaquin tilted his head forward and dropped his bag on the floor. “My ribs’re gonna hurt more tomorrow” Sharon poked through the thin layer of black hair on Joaquin’s scalp, examining the purple-ish bruising. “You’re thick headed, you’ll live” Sharon offered unsympathetically. “How’d it happen?” She asked, walking back toward the bedroom. “Come on, we have to get ready. We’ve got dinner with Jenny and Henry tonight” Joaquin groaned to himself, having completely forgotten. He picked his bag up and walked into the bedroom with Sharon. “Big guy, wanted to fight” He replied as they both began changing clothes. “What’d he do?” Sharon asked, while stepping into a dress. Perez sighed to himself while selecting a dark green polo shirt from the closet, pulling it over his head. “Tried to kill a hooker while he was naked and high on meth” He stepped to the right to read Sharon’s expression in the mirror, seeing only mild surprise register on her face.
Joaquin and Sharon drove the 40 minutes to Henry and Jenny’s house in light rain, pulling into the parking lot as light puddles had begun forming on the driveway. Sharon got out of the passenger seat and walked briskly through the thin rainfall, ahead of Joaquin, to the front door and out of the rain. Perez walked at his regular pace, too tired to care enough about running. “Are you okay?” Sharon half whispered while ringing the doorbell as he approached the front door. Joaquin nodded back at her, straightening himself upright, feeling a tinge of guilt for the passive aggressive display. Jenny, a colleague and friend of Sharon’s pulled the door open. “Hi! How are you? Is everything okay?” She asked as she waved the two of them through the door. Sharon nodded, smiling. “Just fine” “Sorry we’re late, got held up at work” followed Joaquin. “Okay, no problem. We’ve got dinner ready, so we can eat whenever. Do you want a drink first?” “Yes” Perez replied, without hesitation. The trio stepped into the main living area of the house, bordering on the kitchen, where Henry stood with a wine bottle and four glasses. Henry and Joaquin briefly shook hands. The two had only met on a handful of occasions in the past. Henry, a white, curly haired High School teacher, dressed in a blue collared shirt and maroon sweater had little in common with Perez, but had good taste in beer. “How you doing?” Joaquin asked. Henry shrugged in response and walked over to the refrigerator. “No complaints. How about yourself?” “No complaints...” Henry pulled two tall Guinness cans out from the refrigerator. “Look good to you?’ He asked, holding one of the cans up over his shoulder while looking back at Joaquin. “Definitely”
Jenny had microwave dishes upside down on the table, covering the four plates of crumbed fried chicken and vegetables/. Perez could see the oil and butter pooling on the plate and silently groaned, wishing he’d made an excuse to get out of dinner. They sat down for dinner, Perez spent more time on the tall mug-like glass of black beer from the outset. Jenny and Sharon talked about work, complained about doctors with little to no manners and patients. Henry compared the manners of those Sharon andJenny complained about to that of High School students. Joaquin, too tired to pretend to be interested, zoned out thinking about the mild pain in his ribs, the fight in the bathroom and the impending return to the Night Watch rotation - until Sharon’s voice brought him back to reality. “You’re changing back to nights, right?” Perez blinked, staring blankly ahead before looking around the table to see three sets of eyes looking at him. “Uh, yeah” He replied. “I like working nights” Jenny piped up “There’s more space in break rooms, on nights where I actually get a break” Joaquin forced another mouthful of food down and went back into his own little world, until another uptick, usually heard when she asked a question, in Sharon’s voice brought him back again. “Hm?” Sharon rolled her eyes, Jenny laughed. “Typical male, can’t multitask. Eating and listening” Joaquin’s brain shifted gears. “What...?” He replied with a mild arch in his eyebrow. “It’s that Y Chromosome. This one doesn’t hear me if I’m talking to him while he’s doing something else” Jenny replied with an laugh, nodding toward Henry before sipping from her wine glass. “Yeah, guess you got me. Guys can’t multitask, women can’t use a turn signal. Nobody’s perfect” Perez shrugged and sipped at his beer to hide the smirk, in the stunned silence that followed. Sharon shot him a dirty look and kicked him under the table, Henry looked uncomfortable, Jenny forced another laugh.
Back in the car, Sharon punched Perez in the shoulder after stopping at a red light. “Why’d you say that?!” She asked, Perez snickered, still a little buzzed and too tired to care about the consequences. “Come on, you know why. I could’ve said something way worse anyway...” Silence followed. The light turned green, Sharon accelerated through the intersection. “Ironic, considering some women get black eyes because they needed to be told twi-“ Sharon punched him again, a lot harder this time. He knew he’d gone too far. “Don’t be an asshole” She hissed. They drove the rest of the trip home in silence. Joaquin’s mind began wandering again. Did he really want to go back to night watch in Vinewood? On the south side, night watch had been pure adrenaline. ‘All the good people are at home or at work’ was how his old FTO, Rick, had described night watch off handedly in the past. ‘That just leaves us and the shitbags’. Night Watch in Vinewood was almost boring by comparison. Consisting largely domestic violence calls, fights or alcohol-fuelled disturbances in and around various nightclubs, moving or arresting drug addicts, prostitutes and vagrants alike, overdoses, homeless murders, the rare nightclub shooting typically involving gang members, burglary calls, the list went on. “You coming?” Again, Sharon’s voice brought Perez back to reality. They were home.