Wednesday, February 28, 2007

February 28th, 1997

North Hollywood, CA

Ten years ago today, two men, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Dechebal Matasareanu, walked into a Bank of America on Laurel Canyon and walked out with about $300,000.00. They never got a chance to spend it.

On exiting the building, two officers of the LAPD were waiting for them. That was a problem. Because while the police were armed with their Beretta 92F service weapons and an Ithaca pump-action shotgun, Phillips and Matasareanu were armed with an AK-47, an HK-G91, and a Bushmaster Ar-15. Oh, and Phillips was swaddled in threat level 4 Kevlar.

Thus began the largest, most violent shootout in Los Angeles history.

The police were severely outgunned. At one point officers ran across the street to a gunstore and grabbed semi-auto AR-15s just so they could maybe even the playing field.

All told a total of 370 LAPD officers were called to the scene, as well as the CHP, LA Sheriff, Airport Police, Burbank PD, and the LA School Police. Oh, and then there were the off duty cops, too.

At the end of it, Phillips and Matasareanu were. They had fired over 1,000 7.62mm and 5.56mm steel core, full metal jacketed rounds, wounding 11 LAPD officers, 5 civilians and 1 police dog. Ten police cars were destroyed.

To give you an idea of the chaos and the insanity of this event, read a transcript of some of the radio traffic.

And be glad you weren't there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Announcing Mugshots Magazine

Well, I've gone and done it. Please welcome Mugshots Magazine.

A while ago I threw out a small challenge to write some short pieces using mugshots as inspiration. And I got some excellent stories.

Well, that idea's grown into a full fledged quarterly. With editors and everything. We're taking submissions until May 1st for the Spring issue. Pop on over and check it out.

Friday, February 23, 2007

This Would Have Looked Better On Valentine's Day

Lake Forest, CA

Manuel Osuna has a problem. What is it? Well, let's see if you can figure it out.

His ex-girlfriend has just dropped off her son at school. He catches her on her 2-block walk back home, jumps out of his car, stabs her multiple times in the neck and stomach. Runs away. Tries to steal a car from some random lady down the street. Freaks out. Runs some more. As he's trying to break into a nearby house the OC sheriff gets hold of him and takes him down with a German shepherd. So he does the only logical thing a man in his position could do. He stabs himself in the neck.

Have you guessed his problem, yet? That's right! He's fucking crazy.

I Think This Qualifies As A Misuse Of Power

Indio, CA

Two Riverside County sheriff's correctional deputies, Deputy Joseph F. Bessette, 44, of Yucca Valley, John W. Burns, 29, of Chino, have been accused of 20 felony counts between them for sexual battery and having consensual sex with inmates.
one alleged victim filed a claim in November 2004 seeking $5 million on allegations of severe emotional distress. The claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- alleged that the deputies forced her to perform sex acts in exchange for hygiene products and basic necessities.
Yeah, that's not good.

Well, if convicted on those felony counts they'll be going away for a long time. And there'll be no shortage of prison sex, I'm sure.

So That's What It's Used For

A 38-year-old man, identified only as Ramirez, was beaten to death by two men in a grocery store parking lot yesterday afternoon with one of those steering wheel locks. You know, big metal doohickey? Blunt hook on the end? Yeah. That thing. They call it "The Club" for a reason, apparently.

Just to goes to show that anything can be a weapon. Chair, pool cue, rubber chicken. I'm particularly fond of a Zippo and a can of Aqua Net, myself. Old style Silly String, too. That shit used to go up like napalm before they changed the formula.

Sure, it may not kill your attacker, but it's fun to watch him dance around with his eyebrows on fire.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Personally, I Don't Trust Anyone With Metal Teeth

After that fifth screwdriver just to get up in the morning the thought of tackling those weeds choking your backyard like a metaphor for your your own wretched life is, well, a little distant. So, we here in Los Angeles tend to employ gardeners. I mean, come on, with our commutes who the hell has time for yardwork?

Sometimes, though, maybe we make the wrong hiring choices.

Rosa Octavila Ramos was found dead in her home Tuesday morning with a bag over head. Now the police want to talk to the handyman, Sanuel.
Ramos' granddaughter, Gabriella Palomino, described Sanuel as tall, in his 30s, with fair skin, tattooed arms, and metal lining around his two front teeth. Palomino says Sanuel last seen driving in an older champagne-colored Chevrolet Malibu.
So if you see Sanuel, that's him up there, give the LAPD a ring, would ya? They'd really like to talk to him.

UPDATE: This from the LAPD Blog.
Anyone with information is asked to call the West Valley Homicide Detectives Scott Crowe or Brad Roberts at 818-374-7721. On weekends or during off-hours, call the 24-hour toll free number at 1-877-LAWFULL (1-877-529-3855).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Guns In L.A. - What Do You Think?

Sean Bonner over at Blogging.la is discussing a subject near and dear to my heart.

Guns.

In a five part series he is tackling some of the biggest issues facing gun control in California and Los Angeles in particular. The gist of it is that it doesn't work.

So far he's covered proposed gun control legislation that, including a bill that would require weapons to stamp the brass with an identifying mark, and the problems with California's CCW Licenses.

He's got some intelligent things to say about it. And I wouldn't just say that because I happen to agree with him, either. For the most part. I doubt he's for arming everybody in a bloody free-for-all just to cull the weak from the herd like I am. But nobody's perfect.

Now, something else to think about is this tidbit from a December, 2006 Force Science Newsletter that my lovely wife passed to me the other day, on a 5 year study conducted by the FBI called, "Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers." It was on "how offenders train with, carry and deploy the weapons they use to attack police officers".

This is from a sample of 40 incidents involving 43 offenders and 50 police officers culled from a list of over 800 incidents. No word on the selection criteria, and I don't have the report itself, yet, so I can't speak to that.

Pretty fucking disturbing stuff.
Predominately handguns were used in the assaults on officers and all but one were obtained illegally, usually in street transactions or in thefts. In contrast to media myth, none of the firearms in the study was obtained from gun shows. What was available "was the overriding factor in weapon choice," the report says. Only 1 offender hand-picked a particular gun "because he felt it would do the most damage to a human being."

Researcher Davis, in a presentation and discussion for the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, noted that none of the attackers interviewed was "hindered by any law--federal, state or local--that has ever been established to prevent gun ownership. They just laughed at gun laws."

---


Nearly 40% of the offenders had some type of formal firearms training, primarily from the military. More than 80% "regularly practiced with handguns, averaging 23 practice sessions a year," the study reports, usually in informal settings like trash dumps, rural woods, back yards and "street corners in known drug-trafficking areas."

One spoke of being motivated to improve his gun skills by his belief that officers "go to the range two, three times a week [and] practice arms so they can hit anything."

In reality, victim officers in the study averaged just 14 hours of sidearm training and 2.5 qualifications per year. Only 6 of the 50 officers reported practicing regularly with handguns apart from what their department required, and that was mostly in competitive shooting. Overall, the offenders practiced more often than the officers they assaulted, and this "may have helped increase [their] marksmanship skills," the study says.

---


More often than the officers they attacked, offenders delivered at least some rounds on target in their encounters. Nearly 70% of assailants were successful in that regard with handguns, compared to about 40% of the victim officers, the study found. (Efforts of offenders and officers to get on target were considered successful if any rounds struck, regardless of the number fired.)

---


Thirty-six of the 50 officers in the study had "experienced hazardous situations where they had the legal authority" to use deadly force "but chose not to shoot." They averaged 4 such prior incidents before the encounters that the researchers investigated. "It appeared clear that none of these officers were willing to use deadly force against an offender if other options were available," the researchers concluded.

The offenders were of a different mind-set entirely. In fact, Davis said the study team "did not realize how cold blooded the younger generation of offender is. They have been exposed to killing after killing, they fully expect to get killed and they don't hesitate to shoot anybody, including a police officer. They can go from riding down the street saying what a beautiful day it is to killing in the next instant."
The empasis is mine, by the way, in case you couldn't tell.

I'm not trying to dis the police, and this study looks at a fairly small sampling from sources that I can't vouch for. But something to bear in mind is that these are the people who are between you and those guys; the home invaders, the rapists, the murderers, the carjackers. From this study, I'd say that it's a safe bet that those guys, well, they're a little more proficient at this sort of thing than our guys.

And when you take into account that a city of L.A. population only has about 9,000 officers, compared to, say, New York, with twice as many people, at about 27,000, one begins to get images of the sacking of Rome.

So, sound off boys and girls. What do you think? An armed society is a polite society? Perhaps if we're nice he'll go away? Thoughts? Rants? That's what the comments are for.

Well, that and hate mail.

Homicide, It's Not Just For The Young'uns

Reseda, CA

The body of 82-year-old Rosa Octavila Ramos was found in her home in Reseda Tuesday morning. She was covered in blankets and had a bag stuck over her head. Her daughter found the body.

The police haven't released many details, yet. They say they have some leads and are looking at some suspects.

What would someone have to gain by murdering an 82-year-old woman? Was it an accident? Was it planned? My money would be on the former, except for the plastic bag over her head.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

You People Are More Twisted Than I Thought

Mr. Bagley's Heavy Metal Noir contest over at Hillbilies and Hitmen is officially over. My entry, Like That Japanese Chick What Broke Up Van Halen, got lucky and won.

Apparently, y'all like stories of murderous punk rockers and bathroom stall blowjobs. Who'da thunk?

A shout out to the other fine writers who contributed stories:

Are You Happy? by Karen Pullen
War Pigs by Stephen D. Rogers
Stampeding the Elephant by Sandra Seamans
Sweet Child O’ Mine by Gerald So

And finally, thank you Patrick for putting this together. It was a blast.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Steak And A Blowjob Day

Los Angeles, CA

February 14th. The day when men scramble for that last, wilted rose at the Safeway checkout, that final, bent card where you have to scribble out "Mom" and hope your girlfriend doesn't notice. That day where droves of harried boyfriends and husbands wonder, yet again, what's so special about that special someone that a $20.00 handjob couldn't satisfy.

Cards, flowers, chocolates, jewelry. Really, what's in it for them? When was the last time a guy sat in his cubicle at work and fumed because his girflriend didn't send him a dozen Peruvian roses, hand-picked by third world laborers, whip marks still freshly stung on their backs?

Hence, Steak And A Blowjob Day.

Anyway, in celebration of the day made popular by Al Capone in 1929 here are a few thoughts on love from days past here at L.A. Noir. Okay, maybe not love per se, but you get the idea.
In other news, the Winter edition of Demolition Magazine is out today, featuring fiction by Ed Lynskey, David J. Montgomery, James McGowen, John Stickney, Anthony Rainone, Keith Gilman, Rob Kramer, and Peggy Ehrhart.

And in other, other news, there's one day left to vote for your favorite Heavy Metal Noir story over at Hillbillies And Hitmen.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody. And remember, nothing says I love you like a ballgag and a paddle.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Meth And The Hog-Nosed Coon

Lakeland Village, CA

So the Riverside County Sheriff hits Norman Vollan's house looking for meth. And they found it. Along with some child pornography and... a coatimundi.

Also known as the hog-nosed coon, the coatimundi is a raccoon-like animal native to Central and South America. Size of a large house-cat. Illegal in California.

The meth I understand. You can get that anywhere. Especially in Riverside. The porn, too. That's what the internet's for, after all.

But where the hell do you pick one of these up? Some guy pulls up to you in a van and says, "Hey, buddy, wanna buy a small, diurnal, South American mammal?"

Me, I'm holding out for a rhinoceros.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

L.A. Voice Est Mort, Vive L.A. Voice!

Los Angeles, CA

A little while ago Mack Reed announced that he was stepping down as editor of L.A. Voice, that bastion of Los Angeles insight, politics and more than a few rants.

Well, today's the day.

Welcome in L.A. Voice 2.0.

I've contributed bits and pieces here and there on the site over the last year or two. Not as regularly as I'd like, but them's the breaks. Not sure what the new management has in store for the place, but I'm looking forward to seeing it. It looks like he's left it in more than capable hands.

And, hey, if I'm lucky, maybe they'll let me in behind the velvet ropes a time or two.

Sorry to see you go, Mack. It's been fun.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

'Cause I'm A Sucker For "Provocative Violence"

Rob Gregory Brown's new book, "Kiss Her Goodbye" is on the shelves today.

Here's what PW says about it
Provocative violence, a colorful Chicago background and a dollop of the supernatural lift Browne's debut thriller. ATF agent Jack Donovan almost captures his nemesis, ruthless gangster Alex Gunderson, during a bank robbery. Gunderson's amoral pregnant wife, Sara, is shot in the ensuing chase, leaving her in a coma. Gunderson seeks revenge by kidnapping Donovan's teenage daughter, Jessica, and burying her in a coffin with enough air for three days. As the tension builds, a vainglorious Chicago cop shoots the kidnapper, who dies without revealing Jessica's whereabouts. Browne's experience as a screenwriter shows as he shorthands the parallels between the anarchic Gunderson and straight-arrow Donovan, both of whom are single-minded and personally loyal. Elements of the supernatural, including out-of-body experiences, provide humorous relief from the breathtaking pace.
Well, sign me up.

Glad to see the new book out, Rob. Can't wait to get hold of a copy.

Criminal Tip #89,623 - Be Careful Who You Shoot At

Los Angeles, CA

There's this Greek Myth where Zeus comes down as, what is it, a sheep? And then the shepherd gets all, "Hey, baby, that's one fiiiine lookin' lambchop you got there, honey," and the sheep is all, "Nuh-uh, boyfriend, 'cuz I'm all Zeus and shit!" but the shepherd doesn't listen and he's all "Yeah, baby! Yeah! Bleat for daddy!" slappin' Zeus' ass to the rhythm with his pants round his ankles.

Yeah, so Zeus turns him into wormshit, or something.

Anyway, I was reminded of that when I read this story about the experiences of plainclothes officers Mike Pace and Danny Mendez of the 77th Crime Surveillance Team while in an unmarked vehicle.
One of the gang members, Anthony Dale Lavell, ran across the four lanes of Figureoa Street, chasing the officers' car with a gun in his hand, yelling, "Where you from?" The assault resulted in the officers returning gunfire at Lavell, who was wounded, but is expected to recover. Two of Lavell's bullets impacted the officers' car, but neither officer was wounded. Officers detained three more gang members and found two more guns in the apartment complex.
Who says crime can't be funny?

The Homicide Report

Los Angeles, CA

Starting this week, on the L.A. Times Blog, crime reporter Jill Leovy will be covering the previous week's homicides as reported to the L.A. County Coroner. With the names they will be posting some information they've managed to pull together about the men and women appearing on the report.

This has been a long time coming and I'm glad the Times is doing this. We become numb to the daily tragedies that happen in this city, retreating into the comfort of statistics. So much easier to see a gang death as an easy label, than it is to see it for the truth; one more life snuffed out that could have been so much more.

The Homicide Report

Hat tip to Mack Reed over at L.A. Voice for the link.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Big Day O' Fiction

Also known as blowing my own horn, which usually leads to neck trouble if not done properly. Anyway, after Flashing In The Gutters went tits up, I thought about posting all the pieces I had up there over here. So I've finally gotten off my ass and done it. At least the ones I could find on the morass that is my hard drive.

In no particular order

Enjoy. Or don't and mock me mercilessly for my hubris.

FICTION - THREE CARD MONTE

It's just a game to the kid. Maybe he's got money to burn. Maybe he believes the bullshit. Either way he's losing twenties hand over fist, dropping them onto Michael's lap like he's pouring water down a drain.

"There," he says. "That one."

Michael flips over the middle card and the kid groans as he loses another twenty.

"I was sure you had it that time," Franklin says to the kid's right. He and Tony are the two shills, winning and losing to make it look like real gambling to sucker in a mark, make him think he can beat the game.

Michael's never seen a mark so easy, so totally involved, so, well, so happy about losing. Not complaining, just finding it a little odd.

At first he used a Throw, gathering the three cards and dropping the top one in his hand, rather than the bottom, so that it looked like the queen was going down, when in fact it was one of the two aces. But after a while it just seemed to be a waste of time.

He was a master at the Throw. Even when he was caught on camera it was almost impossible to see. He'd trained for twenty years, doing card magic at hotels in the Catskills, Saturday night clubs in New Jersey, lounge acts outside of Vegas.

His old man had been a magician, but he never listened to the best advice the old trickster tried to give him until he was on his last dime in Miami. "Magic gets you bupkes, kid. All the money's in the hustle."

So he took his skills and cleaned out a dice game full of Cubans in a badly lit parking lot. He knew to lose enough that they didn't try to roll him over, but to win enough that he could eat that night.

That was almost fifteen years ago. And now, mid-fifties, he's on an MTA bus in downtown Los Angeles pumping a college kids just to make his rent.

Times like these he wonders if maybe he should have gone into a different line of work.

Tony gets in on the game. The trick is to have the shills win enough that the game looks legit, but lose enough so that the mark thinks he can do a better job. He takes a twenty, loses another. The kid takes another crack.

"What's your name, anyway, son?" Michael asks.

"Greg." He points to the left card. Michael decides to give him one just to keep him on the hook.

"Nice job," Franklin says, muscles in and wins a hand.

"You go to school around here?" Michael says.

"Yeah," Greg says. "USC. Double major. Economics and fine art."

"That's a hell of a combination."

"Yeah. But it's working out pretty well. Doing my Masters thesis."

The kid plops down another twenty, spots the Queen, so Michael does a quick flip of the cards, switching one for another mid-turn. The kid doesn't even blink. Thirty five years of card tricks and he's still got it.

Over the course of the next ten minutes Michael cracks the kid for over four hundred bucks. A hell of a haul for a short day.

Someone rings the bus' stop bell and the kid looks out the window, squinting at the street sign. "My stop," he says.

He gets up, slings his backpack over his shoulder, makes his way to the back door. Michael starts to gather his cards just as the bus driver is starting to give him the stink-eye.

"Oh," the kid says, pushing on the doors. "You might want to work on that Mexican Turnover. Try tightening your grip with the thumb and forefinger. It works better."

Michael looks at him, dumbfounded. Looks at the stack of twenties in his lap. Something's wrong. "What did you say you were working on?"

"Masters thesis. It's on the effects of counterfeiting on the black market culture." He gives Michael a grin. "Don't spend it all in one place," he says and steps off the bus.

FICTION - GOING HOME

Bottle of tequila in one hand, loaded .45 in the other. A winning combination. I watch as Malcolm trips around the bar, dancing to some music in his head that doesn't match the Merle Haggard tune playing on the jukebox. Eyes back in his head, whiskered jowls thumping along to the off-key ditty he keeps humming through missing teeth.

"Suppose we should call the Sheriff?" Zeke's seen this performance before, minus the gun, of course. His hand's on the twelve gauge he keeps loaded underneath the shelf of Jim Beam bottles. He doesn't want to shoot Malcolm. Hell, nobody in this shitkicker bar wants to, and god knows they're all packing.

I shake my head, pull a couple hundreds out of my wallet, slip them quietly across to Zeke. "Anything should happen, this should cover it."

Just to prove me wrong Malcolm fires a shot into the jukebox. Glass shatters, Merle's voice listing to port. Everyone gets a little jumpy then, hands going to shoulder holsters and belly bands. I slip Zeke another couple bills.

"I want Ring of Fire, goddammit." Ah, thought that sounded familiar. Not surprised I didn't recognize it. I know fuck all about Johnny Cash.

"You ain't gettin' shit, Mal, you keep that crap up."

He doesn't see me. Barely hears me. Old fart thinks it's still Vietnam and he's drinking it up in a bar in Saigon.

Zeke's had enough. He pulls out the shotgun like it's the Second Coming and everybody clears out for the Apocalypse. "Jerry," he says, "you don't stop this, I will."

I wave him down, slide out to the dance floor. Malcolm's started in on a soft shoe, dancing in the rain in Dallas, back on a stage in New York. All those experiences, all that life. Just a shell now, whose only memories are faded ghosts.

I take his hand, gently dance with him to some forgotten tune substantial as smoke. Sometimes he leads, sometimes I lead. He pulls me close and it isn't until I've got the gun safely from him that I realize we're both crying.

"Jerry?" he says. "What's going on?"

"We're going home, grandpa. We're going home."

FICTION - HIDE A THOUSAND SINS

Manny's in the underbrush. Sitting on the edge of a canyon turnout in Malibu over an hour. Arthritis stiff in his joints, telling him he's too old for this sort of game.

Sunrise peeks over the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Ana winds blowing hard and hot. Six A.M. and it's already seventy. Another hour it'll be crawling toward eighty. Manny's from Albany. Took him years to get used to this kind of heat in October.

It takes another fifteen minutes for his meet-up to arrive. Franklin Peterson. Teaches art history at UCLA. Nice guy. Everybody says so. Too bad.

Franklin pulls up in his Subaru, kicks up dust and gravel in a cloud that lasts barely a second before the winds whisk it away like it's something personal. Manny sees the unease in Franklin's face. Not sure what to make of the note he left on his car last night, maybe. Or the picture.

He won't have a gun. Nice guys rarely own them. Not a big deal if he does. Manny's got his own, a snub-nosed .38. A shot out here, no one to hear but the coyotes.

Franklin waits a beat, fingers drumming on the steering wheel, gets out. The door creaks from some long ago accident left unrepaired.

“You're the guy,” Franklin says.

Manny nods. “You got the money?”

“You got the pictures?”

Manny shows him the manila envelope. A lot like hunting deer, Manny realizes. The speed that Franklin comes toward him, he might as well be holding a salt lick.

“Whoa there,” Manny says. “Cash.”

Franklin hesitates. Pulls a thick envelope out of his jacket.

“Ten thousand,” he says.

“Toss it on the ground. I'll toss you the envelope.”

“Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip?” Franklin shakes his head. “No. On three.”

“Jesus,” Manny says. “Just give me the goddamn money.” Kid's got no respect for age.

Franklin glares at him. “On. Three,” he says.

“Whatever.” Franklin counts down. They toss their envelopes at each other's feet.

Franklin tears his open, photos, negatives falling like rain. He stares at the pile.

Manny pockets his envelope, doesn't bother to open it. “Worth ten K?”

“You unbelievable bastard,” Franklin says, stoops to pick up the scattered pictures before the wind does it for him.

“She's tasty, isn't she?” Manny says. “Looks like you two were having a good time.”

“If you've shown these to her husband,” Franklin starts.

“Ten thousand buys a lot of quiet,” Manny says.

“He hired you didn't he?”

Manny shrugs. “I take opportunity where I see it.” He digs a Zippo out of his pocket, tosses it to Franklin. “Do yourself a favor. Burn 'em.”

Eventually Franklin gets the lighter going in the high wind, touches it to a corner of the envelope. “Awful helpful for a blackmailer.”

“I'm a helpful guy,” Manny says.

“Yeah?” Franklin says, drops the burning envelope, wind whipping the flames. “Then help me. Her husband beats her. Cracked her jaw. Put her in the hospital twice. Fucker's old enough to be her father. Give me a hand with him and there's another ten for you.”

Manny says nothing for a long time. Lets the wind fill in his side of the conversation.

“Rough weather today,” Manny says finally. “Santa Anas sure kick up a hell of a fuss, don't they? Fire starts fast. Takes out acres, jumps over freeways.” He looks at the burning envelope. “Weather like this, brush fire'll hide a thousand sins.”

“Did you hear a goddamn word I said?”

“I did,” Manny says, drawing his gun. “Did you?”

---

The evening news. Talking heads going on about Palestine, Africa, some place in France. Not what he's looking for.

The front door opens. Quiet, like a mouse padding its way past the cat.

“You're home early,” Manny says.

“Fra-- The teacher wasn't there tonight,” his wife says behind him.

“Really?” he says. “That's too bad.”

“I'm going to bed,” she says.

“Brush fire in Malibu,” he says, as the story comes on the screen. “Big one.”

“I'm going to bed,” she repeats.

“You do that, honey,” he says. He cracks his knuckles. No respect for age.

Later, he'll teach her some.

FICTION - BABETTE

Peter’s an accountant for a firm in Bevery Hills. Drives a Benz, lunches at the Four Seasons. Small guy, with whipsy hair in a bad comb over, coke bottle lenses in fashionable frames.

In here, though, he’s just fresh meat.

“Guards tell me you’re causing trouble, Peter,” I say.

He sits across from my desk, staring at the floor, three piece suit given up for a state issued orange jumpsuit. I don’t usually take the time to talk with individual inmates. But Peter’s special.

He looks at me, fat shiner around his left eye, glasses cracked, lips swollen from a well aimed fist. “I didn’t do anyfing,” he says. I think he might be missing a tooth.

“Way they tell it, you’re dangerous. They’re calling you Mad Dog out there in the yard. Might have to move you to the violent offenders ward.”

His eyes go wide. I know he’s already had a run in with Babette, a six foot two, pre-op tranny who likes his fun short and squealing. I’m thinking he doesn’t want another.

“I can–,” he starts, goes silent.

“You what, Peter?”

He reaches over the desk for a pen, writes a long number on a Post-It. Shows it to me.

“That’s nice, but you know how this works.”

He writes another below it. Reads my mind, adds a phone number.

“I think I can work with this,” I say. After the guards escort him out I make the call, transfer the funds. Drain Peter of any usefulness he might have had. Then I call down the order to move him.

Babette could use a new bunk mate.

FICTION - PROMISED LAND

I've had a thermos full of coffee, handful of No-Doz. Eyes are still burning from lack of sleep and too much driving. These midnight stretches of desert all look the same; tar black rivers, yellow lines passing by to the beat of Duke of Earl. No light but the wobbling amber of my headlights, dimming from a bad alternator. Not sure which is going to give out first, me or this aging Chevy.

I pull to the side to take a leak, gravel crunching beneath threadbare tires. Fall in the desert. So cold my cock shrivels to a nub and I stand out there hopping from foot to foot just to get something moving. Goddamn prostate.

There's a sound from the bed of the truck. A whimper under the tarp. I kick the side to shut it up. Fifteen hundred a head isn't enough to move these people across. Not in this cold.

"You got blankets under there. Shut up or I'll leave ya on the side of the road."

A hundred miles more. No heat in the car. No heat in the bed but from what comes up from underneath. Four kids, four adults. Stacked like cordwood. How many of them are going to make it, how many are going to last a month, a year? A lifetime?

Is it worth it for them? For me?

I climb back into the cab, start the car. Turns over on the fifth try. I'll have to pull the jerry can out of the back in fifty miles or so. Fill up the tank and keep going. Can't keep the Promised Land waiting, after all. They've paid their price. Who am I to keep them from it?

FICTION - A DIFFERENT MAN

The first thing Vince does when he gets out of prison is smoke a 15-year-old cigarette that tastes like horse shit.

The second thing he does is turn to the high fences and barbed wire. Gives them a nice, big, double fisted fuck you. For the first time in fifteen years he feels good. For the first time in fifteen years he's a free man.

***

They processed him out, made him sign for a sealed plastic bag with the last of everything he owned of the world. Sent him on his way with a hundred dollars and a bus ticket.

The hat's still in the bag. A crumpled, tan Stetson with a braided leather hatband. Hasn't had the balls to put it back on. It's something from Before.

There's two times just like there's two places. Before and After. Inside and Outside. He's afraid to touch that old hat. Afraid of the man who wore it. Afraid that, like a werewolf in the moonlight, he'll turn back into him.

Prison's left its mark. He's a different man, now.

***

The bus pulls up at the Greyhound station in McAllister, California. Dirt farmers and scrub brush. Tumbleweeds, cactus. Joshua trees that stretch their arms like screaming thieves. All these years, the place is still a shithole.

Prison's put a thirst on him. For beer, whiskey and something else. He wanders into a bar with a handpainted sign, badly done neon. Dust and dirt blowing in after him. An entourage of ghosts.

The Latina behind the bar is wiping it down with a rag that looks like it was used to clean engine parts. Tattooed arms and metal in her face. He orders a Michelob and a Southern Comfort. She pulls a bottle from a cooler full of ice, pours him a shot.

He takes a long pull, savors it. Chases it with the whiskey. Best he's ever tasted.

"Been here long?"

"I don't fuck geezers, grandpa."

Vince laughs. "Whoa, there, darlin'. Just makin' conversation. Mickey still running this place? Mickey Cooper?"

"Yeah, I know Mickey. You want him? He's in the back." She nods to a bent, wooden door with OFFICE in gold italic stickers.

He tips his head toward her. "Obliged."

He knocks on the door. It's an old knock. One he used when he was coming in with a night's profits running meth down into Lancaster. He gives it a second, opens the door.

"Thought I recognized that old tune." Mickey's sitting behind a desk piled high with receipts, order forms, office crap. He's gotten old, fat and bald. Soft.

"Figured you might." Vince slides into a tube metal chair, stuffing poking from tears in the fake leather seat.

"Didn't know you were gettin' out."

Bullshit. Vince knows Mickey better than that. He had Vince's release date etched into his goddamn brain.

"This morning. Caught the bus down. Got something for you." He can see Mickey tense. Knows there's a gun under that desk. "Nothing like that."

He brings up the crumpled hat, still in the plastic bag. Lays it on the table. Mickey looks at it like it's a rattlesnake.

"Haven't seen that in a long time."

"State kept it for me. Thought you might want it back, seeing as how it's yours and all."

"Vince, look, I-"

"I was a weak man back then, Mickey. Not much more than a boy. I took fifteen years for you. Wasn't me wearing that hat people saw. Wasn't me pulled that trigger."

"You come to square things? Here to give me my come-uppance?"

"No. Just here to give you your hat back. I'm a different man, now."

Vince stands. Turns to the door.

Mickey laughs. "You haven't changed. You're still weak, Vince. Suppose you took it up the ass in the joint, huh? Took a dick or two for me?"

Vince leaves the cramped room, ignores the belly laughs coming from inside. He buys a fresh pack of cigarettes from the Latina, pays for his drinks, gives her a big tip.

Outside, the desert sun beats down and a hot wind blows dust devils in the dirt. A beat up Subaru pulls up in the lot as he's lighting up a Marlboro. Three men. Grim faces.

"There's a girl inside. Don't hurt her." They nod, pull guns from the car.

He waits for the gunshots. The screams. Finishes his cigarette, grinds it out under his heel.

"You're wrong, Mickey. I have changed."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Maybe They Thought It Was A Rat?

Lancaster, CA

Devin Irvin, 24, and four minors, were picked up while allegedly burglarizing a house. God, what a complicated word. Burglarizing. Burgling. What's wrong with just saying what it is; stealing shit.

Well, no problems with the other charge they've been hit with, cruelty to animals.
As deputies were investigating the burglary, the woman who lives in the house came home and told deputies that her Chihuahua was missing.

Deputies searched the residence, and found the animal in an "industrial" freezer. The dog was taken to a veterinarian for treatment and was expected to survive.
Now, there's a pity.

Ground skeet. Hell, at least they dropped it in the freezer. Me, I'd have flushed it down the toilet.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Corpses For The Affluent - The Trifecta Countdown Begins

Rancho Palos Verdes

RPV is where the rich kids go. For those who don't know, it's a wealthy area on the Palos Verdes Peninsula overlooking the ocean. PV Drive South is a scenic drive that winds its way past the Pacific, multi-million dollar homes, and the Trump National Golf Course.

It's also the place where a body was found this morning.

No details, yet, but it's pretty sparsely populated over there, so my guess is that it's a drive-by dumping.

With the discovery of Nicole Harvey's burning body in Playa, and now this, we only need one more corpse to complete the trifecta. San Vicente anyone? Sunset? My money's on Bel Air.