Wanna play pit bull polo, dude?" "What's that?"
"It's something I learned when I worked Metro Mounted Platoon."
"It's weird thinking of you as a cowboy cop."
"All I know about horses is they're assholes, man. But we got the
overtime there. You know my little Beemer? I wouldn't have that if
I hadn't worked Metro. My last year in Metro I made a hundred grand
plus. I don't miss those crazy horses but I miss that OT money. And
I miss wearing a Stetson. When we worked the mini-riot at the
Democrats convention, a hot little lobbyist with nipples big enough
to pack up and leave home said I looked like a young Clint Eastwood
in that Stetson. And I didn't carry a Beretta nine then. I carried
a six-inch Colt revolver. It looked more appropriate when I was
sitting on a horse."
"A wheel gun? In this day and age?" "The Oracle still carries a
"The Oracle's been on the job nearly fifty years. He can wear a
codpiece if he wants to. And you don't look like Clint Eastwood,
bro. You look like the guy in King Kong, except you got even
more of a beak and your hair is bleached."
"My hair is sun-streaked from surfing, dude. And I'm even two
inches taller in the saddle than Clint was."
"Whatever, bro. I'm a whole foot taller on the ground than Tom
Cruise. He's about four foot ten."
"Anyways, those pacifist demonstrators at the convention center
were throwing golf balls and ball bearings at our horses, when
twenty of us charged. And dude, when you get stepped on by a
fifteenhundred- pound animal, it sucks bad. Only one horse
went down. He was twenty-eight years old, name of Rufus. That fried
him. Had to retire him after that. One of those Jamba Juicers threw
a lit trash bag at the one I was riding, name of Big Sam. I beat
that bitch with my koa."
"It's like a samurai sword made of koa wood. The baton's about as
useless as a stalk of celery when you're up there on a horse
seventeen hands high. Supposed to strike them in the clavicle, but
guess what, she juked and I got her upside the head. Accidentally,
wink wink. She did a loop de loop and ended up under a parked car.
I saw a horse get stuck with a knitting needle by one of those tree
fuckers. The horse was fried after that. Too much stress. They
retired him to Horse Rescue. They all get fried sooner or later.
Just like us."
"That sucks. Sticking a horse."
"That one got a TV interview at least. When cops get hurt, nothing.
Who gives a fuck? When a horse gets hurt, you get on TV, maybe with
that Debbie D-cup news bunny on Channel Five."
"Where'd you learn to ride?"
"Griffith Park. A five-week course at the Ahmanson Training Center.
Only horse I ever rode before that was on a merry-go-round, and I
don't care if I ever ride another one. Got the job 'cause my
sister-in-law went to high school with the platoon lieutenant.
Horses're assholes, man. An RTD bus can pass you three inches away
at sixty miles an hour and the horse doesn't blink. A little piece
of paper blows in his face all of a sudden and he bucks you clear
over a pile of tweakers and base- heads sleeping on a skid-row
sidewalk at Sixth and San Pedro. And you end up in Momma Lucy's
shopping cart with her aluminum cans and refundable bottles. That's
how I got a hip replacement at the age of thirty. Only thing I
wanna ride now is a surfboard and my Beemer." "I'm thirty-one. You
look a lot older than me."
"Well I ain't. I just had a lot to worry about. They gave me a
doctor that was so old he still believed in bleeding and
"Whatever, bro. You might have progeria. Gives you those eyelid and
neck wrinkles, like a Galapagos turtle."
"So you wanna play pit bull polo or not?" "What the fuck is pit
"Way I learned, they trailered ten of us down to Seventy-seventh
Street on a night when they decided to sweep a three-block row of
crack houses and gangsta cribs. Whole fucking area is a crime
scene. Living next to that is what razor wire was made for.
Anyways, all those Bloods and Crips have pit bulls and rotties and
they let them run loose half the time, terrorizing the 'hood and
eating any normal dogs they see. And the whole fucking pack of
gangsta dogs flew into a blood lust the second they saw us coming
in and they attacked like we were riding T-bones and
"How many did you shoot?"
"Shoot? I need this job. You gotta be richer than Donald Trump and
Manny the plumber to fire your piece in today's LAPD, especially at
a dog. You shoot a human person and you get maybe two detectives
and a team from Force Investigation Division to second-guess you.
You shoot a dog and you get three supervisors and four detectives
plus FID, all ready to string yellow tape. Especially in the 'hood.
We didn't shoot them, we played pit bull polo with the long
"Oh, I get it. Pit bull polo." "Man, I rode through them, whacking
those killer bulls, yelling, 'One chukker for my team! Two chukkers
for my team!' I only wish I coulda whacked their owners."
"Bro, a chukker is a period of play. I know 'cause I watched a
special on the Royal Family. Horny old Charles was playing a
chukker or two for Camilla with big wood in his jodhpurs. That old
babe? I don't see it."
"Whatever. You down with that or not?" "Yeah, I'm down. But first I
wanna know, did anyone beef you for playing polo with the gangsta
"Oh yeah, there's always an ABM who'll call IA, his councilman, and
maybe long distance to Al Sharpton, who never saw a camera he
"You ain't a 'hood rat, are ya? ABM. Angry black male."
"Spent my nine years in Devonshire, West Valley, and West L.A.
before I transferred here last month. ABMs ain't never been filed
on my desktop, bro."
"Then don't go to a police commission or council meeting. ABMs are
in charge. But we don't have hardly any living in Hollywood. In
fact, nowadays most of south L.A. is Latino, even Watts."
"I been reading that the entire inner city is mostly Latino. Where
the fuck have the brothers gone to? I wonder. And why is everybody
worrying about the black vote if they're all moving to the suburbs?
They better worry about the Latino vote, because they got the
mayor's office now and they're about one generation away from
reclaiming California and making us do the gardening."
"You married? And which number is it?"
"Just escaped from number two. She was Druid-like but not as
cuddly. One daughter three years old. Lives with Momma, whose
lawyer won't be satisfied till I'm homeless on the beach eating
seaweed." "Is number one still at large?"
"Yeah, but I don't have to pay her nothing. She took my car,
"Divorced also. Once. No kids. Met my ex in a cop bar in North
Hollywood called the Director's Chair. She wore a felonious amount
of pancake. Looked too slutty for the Mustang Ranch and still I
married her. Musta been her J Lo booty."
"Starter marriages never work for cops. You don't have to count the
first one, bro. So how do we play pit bull polo without horses? And
where do we play?"
know just the place. Get the expandable baton outta my war
The Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, aka MS-13, began at
Los Angeles High School less than twenty years earlier but was now
said to have ten thousand members throughout the United States and
seven hundred thousand in Central American countries. Many
residents of state prison displayed tattoos saying "MS" or "MS-13."
It was an MS-13 crew member who was stopped on a street in North
Hollywood in 1991 by Officer Tina Kerbrat, a rookie just months out
of the LAPD academy, who was in the process of writing him a
citation for drinking in public, nothing more than that, when the
MS-13 "cruiser" shot her dead. The first LAPD woman officer to be
murdered in the line of duty.
Later that evening a besieged Mexican resident living east of Gower
Street called Hollywood Station to say that she saw an LAPD
black-and-white with lights out driving loops around a dirty pink
apartment building that she had reported to the police on several
occasions as being full of Mara Salvatrucha gang
On the other occasions, the officers at the desk kept trying to
explain to the Mexican woman about gang injunctions and probable
cause, things she did not understand and that did not exist in her
country. Things that apparently denied protection to people like
her and her children from the criminals in that ugly pink building.
She told the officer about how their vicious dogs had mauled and
killed a collie belonging to her neighbor Irene, and how all the
children were unable to walk safely in the streets. She also said
that two of the dogs had been removed by people from the city pound
but there were still enough left. More than enough.
The officers told her they were very sorry and that she should
contact the Department of Animal Services.
The Mexican woman had been watching a Spanish-language channel and
was almost ready for bed when she first heard the howling that drew
her to the window. There she saw the police car with lights out,
speeding down the alley next to the apartment building, being
pursued by four or five barking dogs. On its second pass down the
alley, she saw the driver lean out the window and swing something
that looked like a snooker stick at one of the brutes, sending it
yelping and running back into the pink building. Then the car made
another loop and did it to another big dog, and the driver yelled
something that her daughter heard from the porch.
Her daughter stumbled sleepily into the tiny living room and said
in English, "Mamá, does chukker mean something very bad, like
the F word?"
The Mexican woman called Hollywood Station and spoke to a very
senior sergeant whom all the cops called the Oracle. She wanted to
say thank you for sending the officers with the snooker stick. She
was hopeful that things might improve around the neighborhood. The
Oracle was puzzled but thought it best not to question her further.
He simply said that he was glad to be of service.
When 6-X-32's lights were back on and they were cruising Hollywood
Boulevard, the driver said, "Dude, right there's where my career
with the Mounted Platoon ended. That's where I decided that
overtime pay or not, I was going back to normal patrol."
His partner looked to his right and said, "At Grauman's Chinese
"Right there in the courtyard. That's where I learned that you
never ride a horse on the Hollywood Walk of Fame." "Bad
Sid Grauman's famous theater seemed somehow forlorn these days,
dwarfed and sandwiched by the Hollywood & Highland Center,
better known as the Kodak Center, containing two blocks of shopping
and entertainment. It was home to the Kodak Theatre and the Academy
Awards and was overrun by tourists day and night. But the Chinese
Theater still held its own when it came to Hollywood weirdness.
Even this late, there were a number of costumed creatures posing
for photos with tourists who were mainly photographing the shoe and
handprints in the famous forecourt. Among the creatures were Mr.
Incredible, Elmo, two Darth Vaders, Batman, and two Goofys, one
short, one tall.
"They pose with tourists. Pix for bucks," the driver said to his
partner. "The tourists think the creatures work for Grauman's, but
they don't. Most of them're crackheads and tweakers. Watch little
He braked, making the nighttime traffic go around their blackand-
white. They watched the shorter of the two Goofys hassling four
Asian tourists who no doubt had refused to pay him for taking his
photo or hadn't paid enough. When Goofy grabbed one of the two
Asian men by the arm, the cop tooted his horn. When Goofy looked up
and saw the black-and-white, he gave up panhandling for the moment
and tried to disappear into the throng, even though his huge Goofy
head loomed over all but the tallest tourist.
The driver said, "The subway back there is a good escape route to
the 'hood. Dealers hang out by the trains, and the hooks hang
around the boulevard."
"What's a hook?"
"A guy that approaches you and says, 'I can hook you up with what
you need.' These days it's almost always crystal. Everybody's
tweaking. Meth is the drug of choice on the Hollywood streets,
absolutely." And that made him think of his last night at Metro,
which was followed by the replacement surgery and a right hip more
accurate than a barometer when it came to predicting sudden
temperature drops and wind-chill factor.
On that last night in the Mounted Platoon, he and another mounted
cop were there for crowd suppression, walking their horses along
Hollywood Boulevard all calm and okey-dokey, along the curb past
the Friday-night mobs by the subway station, moseying west, when he
spotted a hook looking very nervously in their direction.
He'd said to his partner, who was riding a mare named Millie,
"Let's jam this guy."
He dismounted and dropped his get-down rope. His partner held both
horses and he approached the hook on foot. The hook was a sweaty,
scrawny white guy, very tall, maybe even taller than he was, though
his LAPD Stetson and cowboy boots made him tower. That's when it
all went bad.
"I was talking to a hook right about there," he said to his partner
now, pointing to the sidewalk in front of the Kodak Center. "And
the dude just turned and rabbitted. Zip. Like that. And I started
after him, but Major freaked."
"My horse. He was fearless, Major was. Dude, I'd seen him chill in
training when we were throwing firecrackers and flares at him. I'd
seen other horses rear up on their hind legs and do a one-eighty
while Major stood his ground. But not that night. That's the thing
about horses, they're assholes, man."
"What'd he do?"
"First, Major reared clear up tall and crazy. Then he bit my
partner on the arm. It was like somebody cranked up his voltage.
Maybe a tweaker shot him with a BB gun, I don't know. Anyways, I
stopped chasing the hook, fuck him, and ran back to help my
partner. But Major wouldn't calm down until I made like I was going
to climb in the saddle. Then I did something very stupid."
climbed in the saddle, intending to ride him back to the trailer
and call it a night. I did that instead of leading him back, which
anybody without brain bubbles woulda done under the
"He freaked again. He took off. Up onto the sidewalk."
The moment would be with him forever. Galloping along the Walk of
Fame, kicking up sparks and scattering tourists and panhandlers and
purse snatchers and tweakers and pregnant women and costumed nuns
and SpongeBob and three Elvises. Clomping over top of Marilyn
Monroe's star or James Cagney's or Elizabeth Taylor's or fucking
Liberace's or whoever was there on this block of the Walk of Fame
because he didn't know who was there and never checked later to
Cursing the big horse and hanging on with one hand and waving the
creepy multitudes out of his way with the other. Even though he
knew that Major could, and had, run up a flight of concrete steps
in his long career, he also knew that neither Major nor any horse
belonging to the Mounted Platoon could run on marble, let alone on
brass inserts on that marble sidewalk where people spilled their
Starbucks and Slurpees with impunity. No horse could trample
Hollywood legends like that, so maybe it was the bad juju. And very
suddenly Major hydroplaned in the Slurpees and just . . . went . .
His partner interrupted the sweat-popping flashback. "So what
happened, bro? After he took off with you?"
"First of all, nobody got hurt. Except Major and me."
"They say I ended up in John Wayne's boot prints right there in
Grauman's forecourt. They say the Duke's fist print is there too. I
don't remember boots or fists or nothing. I woke up on a gurney in
an RA with a paramedic telling me yes I was alive, while we were
screaming code three to Hollywood Pres. I had a concussion and
three cracked ribs and my bad hip, which was later replaced, and
everybody said I was real lucky."
"How about the nag?"
"They told me Major seemed okay at first. He was limping, of
course. But after they trailered him back to Griffith Park and
called the vet, he could hardly stand. He was in bad shape and got
worse. They had to put him down that night." And then he added,
"Horses are such assholes, man."
When his partner looked at the driver, he thought he saw his eyes
glisten in the mix of light from the boulevard-fluorescence and
neon, headlights and taillights, even reflected glow from a
floodlight shooting skyward-announcing to all: This is Hollywood!
But all that light spilling onto them changed the crispness of
their black-andwhite to a wash of bruised purple and sickly yellow.
His partner wasn't sure, but he thought the driver's chin quivered,
so he pretended to be seriously studying the costumed freaks in
front of Grauman's Chinese Theater.
After a moment the driver said, "So anyways, I said fuck it. When I
healed up I put in for Hollywood Division because from what I'd
seen of it from the saddle it seemed like a pretty good place to
work, long as you got a few hundred horses under you instead of
one. And here I am."
His partner didn't say anything for a while. Then he said, "I used
to surf a lot when I worked West L.A. Lived with my leash attached
to a squealy. I had surf bumps all over my knees, bro. Getting too
old for that. Thinking about getting me a log and just going out
and catching the evening glass."
"Awesome, dude. Evening glass is way cool. Me, after I transferred
to Hollywood I sorta became a rev-head, cruising in my Beemer up to
Santa Barbara, down to San Diego, revving that ultimate driving
machine. But I got to missing being in the green room, you know? In
that tube with the foam breaking over you? Now I go out most every
morning I'm off duty. Malibu attracts bunnies. Come along sometime
and I'll lend you a log. Maybe you'll have a vision."
"Maybe I'll get a brain wave out there on evening glass. I need one
to figure out how to keep my second ex-wife from making me live
under a tree eating eucalyptus like a fucking koala."
"Of course you're gonna get a surf jacket soon as these hodads
around Hollywood Station find out. Everybody calls me Flotsam. So
if you surf with me, you know they're gonna call you . .
"Jetsam," his partner said with a sigh of resignation. "Dude, this
could be the beginning of a choiceamundo friendship." "Jetsam? Bro,
that is wack, way wack."
"What's in a name?" "Whatever. So what happened to the Stetson
after you played lawn dart in Grauman's courtyard?"
"No lawn in that courtyard. All concrete. I figure a tweaker picked
it up. Probably sold it for a few teeners of crystal. I keep hoping
to someday find that crankster. Just to see how fast I can make his
body heat drop from ninety-eight point six to room
As they were talking, 6-X-32 got a beep on the MDT computer. Jetsam
opened and acknowledged the message, then hit the en route key and
they were on their way to an address on Cherokee Avenue that
appeared on the dashboard screen along with "See the woman, 415
"Four-fifteen music," Flotsam muttered. "Why the hell can't the
woman just go to her neighbor and tell them to turn down the
goddamn CD? Probably some juice-head fell asleep to Destiny's
Child." "Maybe Black Eyed Peas," Jetsam said. "Or maybe Fifty Cent.
Crank up the decibels on that dude and you provoke homicidal urges.
Heard his album called The Massacre?"
It wasn't easy to find a parking place near the half block of
apartment buildings, causing 6-X-32 to make several moves before
the patrol car was able to squeeze in parallel between a late-model
Lexus and a twelve-year-old Nova that was parked far enough from
the curb to be ticketed.
Jetsam hit the at-scene button on the keyboard, and they
grabbed their flashlights and got out, with Flotsam grumbling, "In
all of Hollywood tonight there's probably about thirteen and a half
fucking parking places."
"Thirteen now," Jetsam said. "We got the half." He paused on the
sidewalk in front and said, "Jesus, I can hear it from here and it
It was the Schreckensfanfare, the "Fanfare of Terror," from
A dissonant shriek of strings and a discordant blast from brass and
woodwinds directed them up the outside staircase of a modest but
respectable two-story apartment building. Many of the tenants
seemed to be out this Friday evening. Porch lights and security
lights were on inside some of the units, but it was altogether very
quiet except for that music attacking their ears, assaulting their
hearing. Those harrowing passages that Beethoven intended as an
introduction to induce foreboding did the job on 6-X-32.
They didn't bother to seek out the complainant. They knocked at the
apartment from which that music emanated like a scream, like a
"Somebody might be drunk in there," Jetsam said. "Or dead," Flotsam
said, half joking.
No answer. They tried again, banging louder. No answer. Flotsam
turned the knob, and the door popped open as the hammering timpani
served the master composer by intensifying those fearful sounds. It
was dark except for light coming from a room off the hallway.
"Anybody home?" Flotsam called. No answer. Just the timpani and
that sound of brass shrieking at them.
Jetsam stepped inside first. "Anybody home?" No answer. Flotsam
reflexively drew his nine, held it down beside his right leg and
flashed his light around the room.
music's coming from back there." Jetsam pointed down the dark
"Maybe somebody had a heart attack. Or a stroke," Flotsam said.
They started walking slowly down the long, narrow hallway toward
the light, toward the sound, the timpani beating a tattoo. "Hey!"
Flotsam yelled. "Anybody here?"
"This is bad juju," Jetsam said. "Anybody home?" Flotsam listened
for a response, but there was only that crazy fucking music!
The first room off the hall was the bedroom. Jetsam switched on the
light. The bed was made. A woman's pink bathrobe and pajamas were
lying across the bed. Pink slippers sat on the floor below. The
sound system was not elaborate, but it wasn't cheap either. Several
classical CDs were scattered on a bookcase shelf beside the
speakers. This person lived in her bedroom, it seemed.
Jetsam touched the power button and shut off that raging sound.
Both he and his partner drew a breath of relief as though bobbing
to the surface from deep water. There was another room at the far
end of the hallway, but it was dark. The only other light came from
a bathroom that served this two-bedroom unit.
Flotsam stepped to the bathroom doorway first and found her. She
was naked, half in, half out of the bathtub, long pale legs hanging
over the side of the tub. She had no doubt been a pretty girl in
life, but now she was staring, eyes open in slits, lips drawn back
in that familiar snarl of violent death he'd seen on others: Don't
take me away! I'll fight to stay here! Alive! I want to stay
Jetsam drew his rover, keyed it, and prepared to make the call. His
partner stayed and stared at the corpse of the young woman. For a
few seconds Flotsam had the panicky idea that she might still be
alive, that maybe a rescue ambulance would have a chance. Then he
moved one step closer to the tub and peeked behind the shower
There were arterial spurts all over the blue tile of the wall even
to the ceiling. The floor of the tub was a blackening vat of
viscosity and from here he could see at least three chest wounds
and a gaping gash across her throat. At that second but not before,
the acrid smell of blood and urine almost overwhelmed him, and he
stepped out into the hallway to await the detectives from Hollywood
Station and from Scientific Investigation Division.
The second bedroom, apparently belonging to a male roommate, was
tidy and unoccupied at the moment, or so they thought. Jetsam had
shined his light in there in a cursory check while talking on the
rover, and Flotsam had glanced in, but neither had bothered to
enter the bedroom and look inside the small closet, its door
While the two cops were back in the living room making a few notes,
careful not to disturb anything, even turning on the wall switch
with a pencil, a young man entered from the darkened hallway behind
His voice was a piercing rasp. He said, "I love her." Flotsam
dropped his notebook, Jetsam the rover. Both cops wheeled and drew
"Freeze, motherfucker!" Flotsam screamed. "Freeze!" Jetsam added
He was frozen already. As pale and naked as the young woman he'd
murdered, the young man stood motionless, palms up, freshly slashed
wrists extended like an offering. Of what? Contrition? The gaping
wrists were spurting, splashing fountains onto the carpet and onto
his bare feet.
"Jesus Christ!" Flotsam screamed. "Jesus!" Jetsam screamed
Then both cops holstered their pistols, but when they lunged toward
him the young man turned and ran to the bathroom, leaping into the
tub with the woman he loved. And the cops gaped in horror as he
curled himself fetally and moaned into her unhearing ear.
Flotsam got one latex glove onto his hand but dropped the other
glove. Jetsam yelled into the rover for paramedics and dropped both
latex gloves. Then they jumped onto him and tried to drag him up,
but all the blood made his thin arms slip through their hands, and
both cops cursed and swore while the young man moaned. Twice, three
times he pulled free and plopped onto the bloody corpse with a
Jetsam got his handcuff around one wrist, but when he cinched it
tight the bracelet sunk into the gaping flesh and he saw a tendon
flail around the ratchet and he yelled, "Son of a bitch! Son of a
bitch!" And he felt ice from his tailbone to his brain stem and for
a second he felt like bolting.
Flotsam was bigger and stronger than Jetsam, and he muscled the
rigid left arm out from under the chest of the moaning young man
and forced it up behind his back and got the dangling bracelet
around the wrist. And then he got to see it sink into the red maw
of tendon and tissue and he almost puked.
They each got him by a handcuffed arm and they lifted him but now
all three were dripping and slimy from his spurting blood and her
thickening blood and they dropped him, his head hitting the side of
the tub. But he was past pain and only moaned more softly. They
lifted again and got him out of the tub and dragged him out into
the hallway, where Flotsam slipped and fell down, the bleeding man
on top of him still moaning.
A neighbor on her balcony screamed when the two panting cops
dragged the young man down the outside stairway, his naked
bloodslimed body bumping against the plastered steps in a muted
plop that made the woman scream louder. The three young men fell in
a pile onto the sidewalk under a street lamp, and Flotsam got up
and began ransacking the car trunk for the first-aid kit, not
knowing for sure what the hell was in it but pretty sure there was
no tourniquet. Jetsam knelt by the bleeding man, jerked his Sam
Browne free, and was trying to tie off one arm with an improvised
tourniquet made from his trouser belt when the rescue ambulance
came squealing around the corner onto Cherokee, lights flashing and
first patrol unit to arrive belonged to the sergeant known as the
Oracle, who double-parked half a block away, leaving the immediate
area to RA paramedics, Hollywood detectives, evidence collectors
from Scientific Investigation Division, and the coroner's team.
There was no mistaking the very old patrol sergeant, even in the
darkness. As his burly figure approached, they could see those pale
service stripes on his left sleeve, rising almost to his elbow.
Forty-six years on the Job rated nine hash marks and made him one
of the longest-serving cops on the entire police
Oracle has more hash marks than a football field," everybody
But the Oracle always said, "I'm only staying because the divorce
settlement gives my ex half my pension. I'll be on the Job till
that bitch dies or I do, whichever comes first."
bleeding man was unmoving and going gray when he was blanketed and
belted to the gurney and lifted into the rescue ambulance, both
paramedics working to stem the now oozing blood but shaking their
heads at the Oracle, indicating that the young man had probably
bled out and was beyond saving.
Even though a Santa Ana wind had blown into Los Angeles from the
desert on this May evening, both Flotsam and Jetsam were shivering
and wearily gathering their equipment which was scattered on the
sidewalk next to a concrete planter containing some hopeful pansies
The Oracle looked at the blood-drenched cops and said, "Are you
hurt? Any injuries at all?"
Flotsam shook his head and said, "Boss, I think we just had a
tactical situation they never covered in any class I've taken at
the academy. Or if they did, I fucking missed it."
"Get yourselves to Cedars for medical treatment whether you need it
or not," the Oracle said. "Then clean up real good. Might as well
burn those uniforms from the looks of them."
"If that guy has hepatitis, we're in trouble, Sarge," Jetsam said.
"If that guy has AIDS, we're dead," Flotsam said.
"This doesn't look like that kind of situation," the Oracle
said, his retro gray crew cut seeming to sparkle under the
streetlight. Then he noticed Jetsam's handcuffs lying on the
sidewalk. He flashed his beam on the cuffs and said to the
exhausted cop, "Drop those cuffs in some bleach, son. I can see
chunks of meat jammed in the ratchets."
"I need to go surfing," Jetsam said. "Me too," Flotsam said.
The Oracle had acquired his sobriquet by virtue of seniority and
his penchant for dispensing words of wisdom, but not on this night.
He just looked at his bloody, hollow-eyed, shivering young cops and
said, "Now, you boys get right to Cedars ER and let a doc have a
look at you."
It was then that D2 Charlie Gilford arrived on the scene, a
gumchewing, lazy night-watch detective with a penchant for bad
neckties who was not a case-carrying investigator, his job being
only to assist. But with more than twenty years at Hollywood
Station, he didn't like to miss anything sensational that was going
down and loved to offer pithy commentary on whatever had
transpired. For his assessments they called him Compassionate
During that evening's events on Cherokee Avenue, after he'd
received a quick summary from the Oracle and called a homicide team
from home, he took a look at the gruesome scene of murder and
suicide, and at the bloody trail marking the grisly struggle that
failed to save the killer's life.
Then Compassionate Charlie sucked his teeth for a second or two and
said to the Oracle, "I can't understand young coppers anymore. Why
would they put themselves through something like that for a
selfsolver? Shoulda just let the guy jump in the tub with her and
bleed out the way he wanted to. They coulda sat there listening to
music till it was over. All we got here is just another Hollywood
love story that went a little bit sideways."
Excerpted from HOLLYWOOD STATION © Copyright 2011 by
Joseph Wambaugh. Reprinted with permission by Little, Brown and
Company, a division of Hachette Book Group USA. All rights