The Renegades: A Charlie Hood Novel | Chapter 31 of 57

Author: T. Jefferson Parker | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1487 Views | Add a Review

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21

 

 

Draper gave Hood a pleased nod when the patrol teams were announced, and Hood nodded back. When the roll call was over the deputies broke into their usual talk and bluster and headed out.

It was another cold night in Antelope Valley and for Hood it felt good to be back in uniform. He had had his duty jacket cleaned and he zipped it up as they walked across the lot under the names of the fallen deputies. Hood looked up and saw the stars were bright and close.

“It’ll be good to ride with you,” said Draper.

“This one’s for Terry,” said Hood.

“I thought you were looking at him for IA.”

“I was. Not much to see. He was clean, but that’s not news to you.”

“Terry clean? He shined. So you’re back on patrol?”

“Just once in a while. I like the overtime and the driving.”

They got coffee at a Lancaster convenience store, then cruised town. The colder the desert, the slower the night, and tonight was slow motion.

“I heard you guys found an M249 SAW at Londell’s,” said Draper.

“Hidden in the box spring.”

Draper shook his head. “But why would he use it on Terry?”

“If we could find him he might tell us.”

“Wily little shit. He’ll be with a woman. He’s always with a woman.”

“We’ve got Latrenya and Tawna covered. They blew his alibi.”

Hood drove a slow and indirect route to Jacquilla Roberts’s home in the Legacy development. When they passed the place where Terry Laws had been murdered, Draper stared at it.

“I patroled here the next night,” he said. “The street was clean from the rain and it was like nothing bad had happened.”

Hood U-turned at the end of the street and started back. He parked in front of the Roberts home.

“He came from behind that tree?” asked Draper.

“Fast.”

“So you, what?”

“I put my right hand on my sidearm and my left hand on the door handle and pretty much fell out of the car.”

Draper looked at Hood, then back out the window. “Did you fire?”

“No. The windshield shattered and I couldn’t see to shoot. By the time I hit the street and came up, he was strafing the roof, waiting for my head to show. Then he was gone, over that fence back there. The fence lines up with a bedroom window. He was fast.”

“I heard he fired a hundred and thirty-three rounds.”

“That gun will deliver a thousand rounds a minute if you let it. It was over before I really knew what was happening.”

“I’m not saying you should have taken a shot,” said Draper. “I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I didn’t take it that way, either.”

“I was angry when I heard. I loved that guy. This is a job, you know. You shouldn’t have to die for it.”

No, you shouldn’t, thought Hood. He looked out at the perfect stars. Build a dream on them.

When Hood looked back, Draper was shaking his head. “I wonder why he didn’t take you out, too.”

“I’ve been thinking about that.”

“Maybe he wanted you to see him.”

“Why?”

Draper shrugged. “Initiation? Maybe he wanted someone left to tell his badass tale. Someone to witness his mighty deed.”

“I think so, too,” Hood said. “But that’s only part of it.”

“What’s the other part?”

Hood looked out to the peppertree and remembered the motion that at first seemed to be wind in the branches, then the emergence of the dark killer with the D on his hoodie and a machine gun.

“I wonder if he wanted me to see the wrong thing.”

“What do you mean, wrong?”

“Something apparent but not true.”

“Like what, Hood?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“What could have been not true? A guy with a SAW gunned down Terry. What you saw was pretty damned true.”

Hood looked out the window. He looked at the tree. He looked at the fence and the house.

“My money is on Londell,” said Draper. “My money was on him early. Now that they’ve found the SAW in his bed, well, maybe it belonged to one of his girlfriends. Or maybe he was just keeping it for a homie. But I think he killed Terry with it. Londell’s just dumb enough to kill someone over a dog.”

 

 

LATER, after three passes down the freeway, Hood drifted off at Avenue M and drove past the place where Lopes and Vasquez had been executed, then took the avenue west.

 

“Pretty slow out here,” said Draper. “I like it when there’s calls.”

“How come you like the action?”

“Don’t know, just grew up liking it.”

“Jacumba.”

“Jacumba,” he said. “It’s a little border town, down in San Diego County. Most people call it miserable but I liked it. I like open country with not a lot of people.”

“Why’d you move to L.A.?”

“Business opportunity. Women. Jacumba didn’t have much of either.”

He told Hood about his family’s restaurant, and growing up in the dusty border streets, and the wall they built to separate Jacumba from Jacume, and watching the good guys chase the creeps all over the hillsides day and night, and the bodies and the jettisoned drugs and guns. He told Hood about Mike Castro getting gunned down in front of him and Israel.

“It was the Wild West, but with AK-47s,” said Draper.

“Brothers, sisters?” Hood asked.

Draper looked at him. “One of each, both younger. Roxanne and Ron.”

Hood waited for more and got none. Draper sat still and Hood sensed that he was deep in thought as he looked out the window. Hood told him about his own brothers and sisters, all older, and how his early memories of them always involve them getting into cars and driving away. How he disliked saying good-bye. Hood said that his siblings kept in touch but were not close, although a dependable loyalty ran through them all.

He picked up the Pearblossom Highway and meandered east. It is a winding and often dangerous little highway during the day, but that night it was quiet and Hood could see the headlights coming well out ahead.

“Terry and I made the Eichrodt pinch right up there,” said Draper. “Those are the Llano ruins. Llano was a utopia. That’s funny, isn’t it? A utopia out here in the middle of the goddamned desert. You can see how successful it was.”

Hood U-turned and drove back to the Llano ruins and pulled over. In the headlight beam he could see the foundation of the old meeting hall, a chimney, a partial river-rock wall.

“You guys spotted the plates?”

“Anonymous tipper,” said Draper. “He only had four of the seven numbers right, but the order was there. It was a three-series plate—a beat-up old Chevy pickup. Goddamned Eichrodt driving around at four in the morning with a tool chest full of stolen money and a murder weapon and brass. Looking for God knows what, somebody else to kill and rob, I guess. Man, he put up a fight. It was almost exactly here, where we’re parked right now. He beat us up pretty good until we got the batons going. Either one of us, alone? He would have killed us. Even Terry. He made Terry look small. Eichrodt couldn’t wait to get violent. He played possum on us, then took Terry down with a sweep. He was high on meth. Terry got a concussion and I don’t even remember how many stitches. I got three on my right eyebrow and three in my lip.”

“And he never stood trial.”

“Naw. Loony bin. If they’d kept him longer on that two-eleven back in ’03, maybe he wouldn’t have been running around killing people.”

Hood eased the cruiser into a wide circle. In the headlights he saw the ruins become desert, then the desert become highway.

“Go to the Avenue M exit,” said Draper. “I’ll show you where the van was.”

A few minutes later they were parked on the Avenue M off-ramp, halfway down. Draper pointed through the windshield.

“There. Pulled off, parked right out in the open. From twenty feet away I could see the blood on the windows in my flashlight beam. It was hot that night. Windy. Spooky. Check it out.”

Draper got out and shut the door. He walked toward where the van had been parked, then turned and looked at Hood. Hood shut off the engine and climbed out and crunched across the shoulder. Draper pointed with his flashlight beam.

“The front was pointed just a little south, not quite squared up with the road,” he said. “I could never figure how two hoods got jumped by a six-eight monster right out in the open, nighttime or not. But then, that’s not my job to figure those things out. Eichrodt must have fired from the passenger side because both guys fell the other way.”

“That was good luck, you finding the van then finding the shooter.”

“Yep.”

“People told me that Terry wasn’t the same after that night.”

Draper turned off his flashlight. “He thought he was Mr. Wonderful, then got the shit kicked out of him.”

“Something more than that. They said something inside him changed. He lost something.”

“Who said that?”

“People.”

Draper was quiet for a long moment.

“People yap too much about things they don’t know,” he said. “To me he was the same guy. Maybe a little more serious. Maybe not quite so light. How do you stay light after that? He was still Terry Laws, man. That’s who he was.”

They stood for a moment in the darkness. Hood could hear a big rig out on Highway 14, heading south fast. The ground vibrated as it thundered by. He zipped his jacket up a little higher and jammed his hands into the pockets.

“Hood, I don’t think this little trip down memory lane was an accident.”

“I’m still looking at Terry.”

“Then keep looking. But you don’t have to sneak around with me. I’m on your side. Or at least I want to be.”

“Thanks, Coleman.”

“That’s the trouble with IA,” he said. “It’s not really your job to look. It’s your job to find. And if you look long enough you’ll find something, even if you have to invent it. Otherwise you haven’t done your job.”

“No invention here, Draper.”

“Good. Because I don’t want anybody talking trash about my partner.”

 

 

THEY RODE OUT the shift talking about what single cops always talk about—work, sports, cars and women. Hood told him he’d be finished with IA when he was done with Terry. And after that, maybe he’d get another chance at the Bulldogs.

 

Draper said he’d love to work homicide but reservists were out of their league in that game. He was volunteering two shifts a week now, sometimes three. He told Hood he’d also been doing some recruiting things for the LASD—fairs, campus career days, things like that. He said he was a people person. He said he thought that getting the right people was the key to good law enforcement.

Draper told Hood about a girlfriend in Azusa and another one in Laguna. He said he’d like to settle down and have a family. Maybe even two, or three. He smiled. He was twenty-nine now, thought it was just about time for all that. He was only working one or two days a week at Prestige, just keeping the books and doing payroll and purchasing, and “keeping the Germans in Beck’s.” He had a small apartment building in Bell that was bringing in steady money.

They pulled over a drunk driver around midnight, their one arrest. She was too drunk to stand up on her own. By the time they booked her the shift was up and they clocked off. They shook hands in the vehicle lot and Draper walked away toward a well-kept but older black BMW M5.

Hood opened the trunk of the cruiser and pretended to be checking the contents.

When Draper’s car growled down the street and out of sight, Hood climbed back into the car and retrieved the voice recorder from under the seat.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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