By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
”Can‘t stop. Sometimes they fire .22’s at us. Should keep moving.“
He hadn‘t mentioned that part. I rolled up my window.
He cruised slowly through intersections, looking for lung-size puffs of smoke. We were surrounded by zombies who didn’t react to our presence at all. These weren‘t his targets.
But once he’d located the smoke signals, he‘d hit the lights and floor it, finally screeching to a fishtail halt and scattering the cluster. Vials, pipes, matches, beer cans, lighters, crack, you name it; it was in the air as if someone had yelled, ”Pull!“
I felt bad for laughing, but kept laughing anyway.
I realized that everywhere, there were people in cars that were lookin’ to score. A dazed, emaciated black woman in a decaying Honda must‘ve passed us in the opposite lane six times. Likewise with a worn-out Buick, a half-charred ’81 Mazda, and a Jeffrey Dahmer look-alike in an old van. Our recurring presence did nothing to deter them, not even with Dave‘s false-alarm pranks.
On the sidewalk, people stayed put, some glaring back, some acting comically preoccupied. Across the street someone attacked a box shelter with a stick. People smoked rock from their pipes right next to us. Others pointed and yelled at nothing.
Dave remarked, ”See, the only way all this’ll stop is if we could empty this dump. I think the perfect solution would be to round ‘em up and stick ’em all on buses, each and every one of ‘em.“
”But where would you put them?“ I asked, afraid of the answer.
”The Westside Pavilion, of course.“
Now there was the Dave I remember.
Laughing like idiots, we left for another corner.
On San Julian an enormous woman with a trash hat approached the car, with her arms spread out and up.
”Officers, you doin’ a great job cleanin‘ up. Good job! Great job! These people all messed up. I’m so happy seeing you fellas patrol this street!“
On we went, back down Skid Row, menacing the street wreckage, laughing at the refuse, the gutter sex, the smoke and the smell.
Taking one last spin through Doomsville, Dave hit the brakes when he saw two men arguing angrily with a small fella about half their size. They were backing him into a doorway. Dave pointed his vehicle at them and stomped on the gas pedal. Again, at the sound of the engine‘s rev, the activity stopped. The wheels locked up when his other foot slammed the brakes. We slid up next to them. Dave is good at this maneuver, I thought. All three men shrugged, like they were ready to offer excuses, alibis and witnesses, but Dave would have none of it.
”You two get lost. You, little guy. Start walkin’ that way. Go!“
”To protect and to serve, eh, Dave?“ I taunted.
Getting back in he said, ”Whatever. I would take you around the block again so we could catch ‘em red-handed, whoopin’ the guy‘s ass, but we gotta go.“
”I see.“ I said matter-of-factly. And with that, we were gone.
Back at the garage I thanked him for the joyride and left. Driving off, I couldn’t help but wonder about the evolution of my friend since high school. Christ, he‘s one of the good guys. Imagine what loose cannons the bad ones must be.
Didn’t have to imagine long.
The other day I asked Dave about the controversy involving other CRASH officers. ”All I can say is, if you cross that line, you‘re done. This Perez guy is an idiot. A drug dealer. He’s talkin‘ out of his ass and trying to save it at the same time. Those guys he implicated? Betcha more than half of ’em return to work. Just a hunch.“
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