In case you’re wondering, the really prime real estate at the city lock up, specifically, the holding tank where the drunk and disorderly sleep it off, is the corner spot near the cell door or topside if there are bunks available. Unfortunately, I had neither to choose from due to the late hour of my arrival courtesy my old pal and former boss, Lt. Dill-hole. Of course I knew he would renege on our little truce right after he shook me down for what he thought I’d found at Sally’s place. Fortunately for me, I managed to keep my cool and resisted cracking wise when his goon squad arrived to cuff me and scuff me. That wee bit of respect earned me a downtown sleepover instead of a long weekend on Terminal Island, high incentive for my cooperative attitude as most of the Sheriff Deputies assigned to the City facility were friends of mine from way back in the day. What that meant to me was that I wouldn’t be subjected to the standard shakedown from hell before checking into my semi-private room in the tank for the night. That little perk would allow my pocket full of stolen evidence to go safely unnoticed, at least until my release in the morning. I tapped my thigh lightly to make sure everything was where it belonged and then surveyed the cell for signs of curious eyes.
Actually, all things considered it was a pretty quiet night. I mean, I had seen this room filled to capacity more times than I cared to remember over the years. Of course that was from the outside looking in. You gain a far different perspective from this side of the bars. The sight of the unsightly was bad enough, but the smell, that was much harsher than I remembered. In fact, I was pretty sure I’d have to shower with industrial strength Mr. Clean to rid my body of the stench! As for my clothes, fuggedaboutit! I would have to burn them as soon as I got home!
From my vantage point at the farthest corner of the over sized communal cell, I surveyed the room killing time. Clearly there was no way I’d be falling asleep in here, not with this assortment of semi-coherent and incoherent roomies. The air was heavy with the powerful aromas of sweat, urine, flatulence, and vomit, making it difficult to breathe. Whoever was on the top bunk nearest me was talking in his sleep while two guys sharing the bottom bunk were busy feeling each other up. Like I said, there wouldn’t be any shut-eye for old Whitey tonight! And with that pleasant thought chow arrived.
“Rise and shine porcupines, get it while it’s hot gentlemen,” bellowed Deputy Bob Blackburn, a six foot six inch 20 year veteran who looked more like a gladiator than a cop! It was SOP to feed the drunks before sunrise so they could cut them loose before the city streets were filled with commuters, you know, normal folk.
I stayed put while the great unwashed slowly meandered toward the front to get their tray of powdered eggs, dry toast, and coffee. I was surprised at how good the coffee smelled, and I was actually pretty hungry having missed my Osso-Bucco at Fat Johnny’s. I was even more surprised that the French roast was able to cut through the stench in tank! I closed my eyes for a moment figuring I would be relatively safe for a few minutes while everyone ate in silence. A power catnap was just what the doctor ordered, and I was almost out when I felt the sharp sting of a baton across the soles of my shoes.
“WHAT THE…” I hollered as I scrambled to my feet!
“Snap out of it Roode, the LT said to cut you loose before he got into work. Said he saw enough of you’re ugly puss last night,” Deputy Blackburn with a wicked grin. He leaned against the bars and watched me hop up and down holding my left foot which was still smarting from the baton tap.
“You enjoying yourself Bob,” I asked dryly?
“Ah, you know how it is Whitey, we aim to please hoss,” he answered with an even bigger grin if that were possible.
“Natch,” I replied walking past him toward the open cell door.
He giggled like the dumb-ass hillbilly he was and followed me out of the cell and on up the stairs at the end of the short hallway. We paused at the heavy door at the top and waited to be buzzed into the mantrap. The door unlocked automatically when the green light came on and we walked inside together. It was pretty cramped quarters and I actually felt bad for Blackburn having to breathe my stink, I could barely stand my own self! He reached around me and pressed a com button on the wall behind me.
“Come on man; shake a leg out there will ya! Whitey here is pretty ripe, I think can actually smell my nose hairs burning,” Blackburn pleaded. The door buzzed open before he could heap on any more humiliation onto what was left of my self-esteem.
“Let’s go stinky, I want you on the street and out of my airspace before I lose my breakfast,” Blackburn ordered.
He gave me a firm but friendly nudge with his night stick. I exited quickly, not even bothering to look back or trade quips with the big lug. I just casually flipped him off and walked on up to the property cage to collect my personal items and bus fare. I could hear Blackburn howling with laughter as he went back into the tap to return to his daily duties. I listened to the clerk count out my small wad of cash (small in denomination that is) and then identify each item before I signed the receipt. I couldn’t wait to get the flock outta there! My first stop post lock up would be my flat for a long hot shower and then I planned to hit The Pantry over on Ninth for a proper breakfast and some quiet time to figure out my next move.
I had stewed all night on the blue thread theme and couldn’t help wondering why Oscar and the blue crew were so protective of this particular case. Something didn’t smell right and given my current hygienically altered state that was saying a lot! I decided before I’d taken ten steps out of the building and sucked in my first few gulps of fresh air (a bit of an oxymoron considering that I lived in Los Angeles), that I would ping on my ace in the hole over at USC Medical Center and call in a couple of favors she owed me. Judy Looney (a.k.a. Looney Tunes) taught forensic science at the University and was also a regular consult on most of the big-time murder cases in the area. No doubt there would be some conflict of interest here given the fact that she was probably already involved in Oscar’s investigation, but, she was also a was a close (and I mean close) friend of my ex-wife Ronald, I mean Rhonda, no, I guess I do mean Ronald? Oh bag it, that gender bending concept just frustrates the crap outta me! Suffice to say that she was more than just a regular at my monthly poker games; she was a regular at my ex’s parlor games as well, nuff said.
Judy was the exception to the rule that “those who can’t…teach” she was in fact the guru of forensic science. Her classes weren’t filled freckle faced undergrads; her classes were filled with forensic scientists sent by cities from around the country and beyond to learn her approach to the craft if you will. To say she was brilliant would be an understatement. Luckily for me she was also still in the closet and I’m not above using my inside information as leverage when I need a favor. So after my shower, shave, and meal Looney Tunes and I would be having a wee chat about the little blue threads in my pocket and whatever tell-tale crud and DNA might be soaked into them. My gut has always been a good barometer when it came to hunches and right now it was growling audibly. It was more than hunger pains, it was fear. Of what I had no idea, but it felt very real nonetheless, why?