I picked up my gun and my shield and had one more go at the picture. "This is not easy reading, Joanie," I said. "Don't be surprised if I come home tonight and flush all these fucking letters down the toilet."
"Don't be an asshole," said the annoying little voice inside my head who hasn't paid a day's rent in forty-two years.
Ahorn honked and my partner pulled up in his
2002 silver Lexus ES 250. "Hey, kids," he yelled
out the window. "We're going to Familyland!
That's Terry, the Fun Homicide Cop.
I got into the Lexus ES 250, which I love to remind Terry is actually a Toyota Camry with a wood-paneled dash and a few other non-essentials to jack up the price. "Good morning, Detective," I said. "Are you looking for the guy who slapped a Lexus logo on the front of your Camry?"
"Nice way to talk to the man who brought you breakfast." There was a container of Starbucks in the cup holder plus a bag of Krispy Kremes on the floor. "Today's the 18th," he said, pulling away from the curb.
"Yeah, I saw that," I said, sipping the coffee and trying hard to ignore the aroma of fried dough and sugar wafting up from the waxy bag of carbs at my feet. "It made Page One of today's paper."
Terry was one of three people who knew about Joanie's letters. "It's that time of the month," he said. "You get mail?"
"Yeah," I said. "She's having a great time. I don't get the sense she's coming back."
Terry was there for me when Joanie was dying. Not intruding. Not giving advice. Just there. A lifeline. He knows when to keep quiet, and this was one of those times. Carbs, be damned, I decided, and unbagged a glazed donut as we headed for the 405 South.
Terry Biggs is the best partner I ever worked with. For starters, he's not very L.A. He's one hundred percent Da Bronx. From the time he was a kid, he knew he was going to become a cop. But in the late seventies when he was ready to apply, the city of New York was in financial hell, and the NYPD had a hiring freeze. Los Angeles, on the other hand, had money, criminals, and jobs. Terry switched coasts and joined LAPD.
Terry is tall, dark, and ugly. Don't get me wrong. I love him. We've been friends and partners for seven years. But he'd be the first to back up my description. Six-foot-three, a mop of greasy black hair and a face that's kind of muley, but more pock marked than a real mule.
The man is butt ugly.
Until he speaks. And his voice, soft and sweet as honey, warms you. He's funny, charming, loving, and before you know it, you're thinking what a beautiful guy. Women are particularly vulnerable to his special brand of ugliness. Terry Biggs had never had a problem getting girls. Keeping them was a different story. He'd had three marriages go south. But number four was the charm. Marilyn. She's with LAPD Rescue. They met on the job.
About ten years ago, Terry stops at the Ralph's on Robertson. He's just parked his car when two guys with guns come tear-assing out of the market carrying a sack, which later turns out to contain $18,000 in cash and food stamps.
Terry pulls his service revolver and yells the standard, "Police, drop your guns, etcetera, etcetera." Now Terry is off duty, so he's wearing plaid shorts and a New York Yankees T-shirt. Apparently, this is not an intimidating outfit, and the robbers keep running. They jump into a moving car, and in two seconds flat, the car is barreling down on Terry. .
He dives out of the way, but a fender catches his foot in mid-air and breaks his ankle. He still manages to get off three shots and blows out two of their tires. The car plows into one of those metal dividers where they collect the shopping carts. The driver gets a face full of air bag. One of the gunmen pulls his own trigger on impact and shoots himself in the leg. And before the last guy can figure out where the door handle is on their stolen car, Terry limps over and is singing "You Have the Right to Remain Silent."
Copyright Marshall Karp 2006. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Macadam Cage.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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