The Renegades: A Charlie Hood Novel | Chapter 33 of 57

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

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Hood picked up a Friday graveyard patrol shift for some OT but mainly just to drive. It was a solo run and the minutes dragged but the hours flew.

After clocking off shift at five-fifty Saturday morning he drove his Camaro up to Bakersfield and stood awhile by Allison Murrieta’s grave. It was her birthday and she would have been thirty-three. Hood reflected that she had had big appetites and never apologized for them. These were largely why she was no longer among the living. But he hadn’t come here to analyze her or to affix blame, only to pay respect and to remember the way she carried herself through this world. He could still taste her breath.

When he was done he drove back to L.A.

 

 

SUNDAY MORNING at six Hood’s old boss on the Bulldogs called. His name was Bill Marlon and he was still running the homicide show out of LASD headquarters in Monterey Park.

 

“Charlie, get yourself to Fifth and San Pedro.”

“Skid Row.”

“ASAP.”

“What’s this about?”

“Your old friend Kick.”

Hood made it quickly in the light Sunday morning traffic. He drove into the shadows of the downtown buildings, made his way into the forbidding darkness of Skid Row. To Hood this was the worst of L.A., a twenty-four-seven bazaar of drug use and narcotics deals and prostitution, often conducted in Porta Potties set up for the homeless, who gathered here for services. He knew it was one of the only places in Southern California where rival gangs could be found buying and selling drugs side by side, violence suspended for the fast dollars. There was heroin on Broadway, crack on Fifth at Crocker or Main. Addicts, dealers, hookers, hustlers, gangsters, the homeless, the hopeless, the insane. All here, thought Hood, the Devil’s arcade. Or a fifty-square-block party, if your idea of a party is crack and sex in a Porta Potti.

He found a place off San Pedro to park. Up ahead near the intersection of Fifth he could see three LAPD Central Division units with their lights flashing, a coroner’s van, a Fire and Rescue truck and a couple of unmarked police and sheriff units.

When he got near the corner he saw two men wheeling a shrouded body into the back of the coroner’s van. A small, ragged crowd had gathered. Marlon was talking to two LAPD sergeants. He thanked them and pulled Hood aside and they stood in the doorway of a shabby office building that was closed on Sundays.

“That’s Kick with the body snatchers,” said Marlon. “Deon Miller. He was walking down Fifth, apparently alone. A black Silverado pickup stopped beside him, the driver got out and shotgunned him. All of this according to the one witness, a Guatemalan dishwasher who rents a room with friends on Los Angeles Street. He was on his way to work.”

Hood watched the coroner’s van roll away, no lights or sirens for this vehicle, just death on wheels. “Did the dishwasher get a look at the driver?”

“White or light Hispanic male, tall. He wore a cowboy hat and dark bandana over his face. Boots and jeans. A long black coat. The hat was black, of course.”

Pretty much what Bradley Jones would wear to avenge his mother’s death, Hood thought.

Marlon took a small digital camera from a pouch on his belt and fiddled with it for a moment before handing it to Hood. On the viewer the pictures of Kick were sharp in the faint first light of morning. He lay center-shot on the sidewalk, faceup in a pool of blood.

“Anyway, Hood, I remember what Bradley Jones told us. I remembered that you believed him. I thought you felt some responsibility to him because of what happened. Maybe it wasn’t him but I figured you’d want to see this.”

Hood handed his camera back. “He said he was going to do it.”

Marlon looked out at the LAPD cruisers on street. “You going to tell these guys?”

“I’ll talk to him first.”

“So you’re in touch?”

“I can find him.”

“Maybe you should do that.”

“Since when do you answer LAPD calls?” Hood asked.

“I drive sometimes at night,” Marlon said. “I look at things and listen to the law enforcement scanner. I can’t sleep. A possible one-eighty-seven always gets my blood moving.”

“I do that some nights, too.”

“You’re too young for that, Charlie,” Marlon said with a smile. “Get yourself another pretty girl. Make yourself tired. How are you liking the desert?”

“I like the desert.”

“And IA?”

“I’d rather be back with the Bulldogs.”

“There may be a time for that. I worked with Warren way back when. He’s okay.”

“I’m glad to hear that from you.”

“You know his story?”

“None of it.”

Hood looked at the bloodstained sidewalk. By now the sun was up but Skid Row was still shrouded in winter shadows. A few blocks away, Parker Center, the police headquarters, caught the early sunlight like a shrine.

They talked to the dishwasher for a few minutes and learned a few more things. He said the black truck had approached and departed slowly. No hurry. The shotgun was long, not sawed off. The shooter raised it to his shoulder and aimed, like a hunter. It had been hard to make things out in the dark, with only the streetlights to see by. The dishwasher was afraid that he would be shot next, but the gunman tipped his hat and got back into the truck.

Tipped his hat, Hood thought: pure Bradley.

“Let’s drive, Charlie. I’ll tell you about Jim Warren.”

Hood moved his Camaro to a pay lot. Marlon drove his Yukon, just a few months old, the interior still smelling new and the police band scanner under the dash turned low.

“You’ve heard of the Renegades?” he asked.

“Tattooed deputies out of the old Lynwood station.”

“Gung-ho white guys,” said Marlon. “They had big attitudes, thought they ruled the known world. They got tattoos of six-guns on the inside of their ankles, with ‘Renegades’ written underneath like barbed wire. This was ’89, when you were what, nine or ten years old? Those were rough years in the ghetto stations, and Lynwood was right in the middle of South Central. Lots of racial tension between white deputies and black citizens, Gorillas in the Mist and all that kind of thing. Warren was the founding member. The Renegades were his.”

Hood looked at his old boss. “Yeah,” said Marlon. “You wouldn’t think of that with what he’s doing now. Back then, Warren swore they were good deputies, total professionals, the good guys. He said the tattoos were just a way of showing solidarity—like a Marine Corps tattoo. He said it wasn’t about power or race, it was only about being a good cop in a bad place. A lot of the Lynwood deputies wanted to be invited in. They really wanted that revolver and the word ‘Renegades’ tattooed on their ankles.”

“There were the Vikings and the Reapers and the Saxons, too,” Hood said.

“The Renegades were the first and the toughest. It finally came down to Warren and the sheriff himself, meeting for an hour behind closed doors. When the meeting was over, the Renegades were allowed to continue on with the membership and the tats. That went for all the clicks. The sheriff washed his hands, said he didn’t approve of them, but the deputies had a constitutional right to assemble in that way. Then came Roland Gauss.”

Hood knew of him, as did every LASD deputy. Roland Gauss was the infamous Renegade who staged a series of “drug raids,” in which he and two other deputies, all in uniform, busted known drug dealers, took their cash and product, and sold the dope themselves.

“When Gauss got caught in the Fed drug sting, Warren stood by him as long as he could. But the evidence was overwhelming against Gauss because someone in his crew was singing loud to the prosecutors. So Gauss tried to sing his way to a lighter sentence, by fingering Warren as the ringleader. He also accused Warren of marital infidelities, drug use, gambling. Warren got suspended. The media played the Renegades story big, and they followed it to the top—Warren. They actually went to his house, staked it out, took his picture. But he kept to his story. He rode it out. Months. By the time the investigation was finished, Gauss was bound over for trial, Warren was exonerated, and the Renegades were banned from the LASD forever. But Warren had that tattoo on his ankle. They all did. Half of them were transferred or took early retirement. Warren had the tattoo removed and he took an IA job nobody wanted. Then, you see what happened. It was like Saul on the road to wherever it was—he started out a badass Renegade and ended up the saint of Internal Affairs. He had this thing for catching bad guys, and he just switched it over to catching bad cops.”

“It seems personal,” Hood said. “He thinks this department is his. Like if you hurt it, you hurt him.”

“Oh, it’s personal all right. His wife died of a heart attack about halfway through the investigation. She had a bad ticker but all the stress didn’t help. They had a good thing. I saw it. To me, she was the saddest casualty of the whole damned mess, that and the way the public thought we were Nazis. What Warren wants now is that nobody like Roland Gauss ever puts on a sheriff’s badge again.”

“That’s a good cause.”

“People like Warren need a cause. They need an enemy with a face. They need a story and a part in it for themselves. Me? Five more years and I’m gone. Montana. Idaho. Typical cop cliché, but that’s fine with me. That’s if I can talk my wife into it, and survive five more years. Blood pressure too high. Cholesterol too high. Putting on pounds. Tired a lot because I can’t sleep at night. They say it’s pressure, but I don’t know. What’s pressure? Everyone’s got pressure. Being a cop was never more than a job for me. But somehow, that wasn’t enough to get me through the years without wearing down. I’m not like Warren. Or you.”

Hood and Marlon had had the first part of this conversation a year ago, just before Marlon got Hood onto the Bulldogs. Marlon had been in Vietnam and Hood had been in Iraq, so they had things in common. Marlon was a patrol sergeant and Hood did investigations with NCIS. Marlon knew what it was to be ambushed in a jungle, and Hood knew what it was to be ambushed in a desert town. But Hood also knew how it was to be hated by your own side. He felt betrayed and alone. He understood Jim Warren’s need to find men he could believe in. Hood had it, too.

“You think Bradley Jones blew Kick away?” Marlon asked.

Hood nodded. “Her birthday was yesterday. I hope I’m wrong.”

“Me, too,” said Marlon. “I liked Bradley. He’d make a deputy someday.”

“I told him that.”

“And what’s he think?”

“He likes the idea but won’t admit it.”

“He still running his own little hoodlum crew?”

“I think so.”

“Does he still hate you?”

“Mostly.”

“He might get over that.”

“He sets a course and follows it, just like his mother.”

“Stupid. I don’t mean she was stupid. You know what I mean.”

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

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