By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
A jolly and loquacious man named Bill, who's in commercial real estate, tells me about the first time he met F.
"We were sitting at the end of the bar, talking about things you don't talk about in a bar. Literature. Science. Poetry. Why the cervix is shaped with this kind of curve. Why the Egyptians used base 7. So then I follow up something I'm saying with a quote from King Lear-- and he finishes the quote! And comes back with something from Much Ado About Nothing. So I give him something from All's Well That Ends Well, and he comes back with something from Titus Andronicus. And I tell him, 'Man, you're one strange cop.'"
About six drinks into the evening, I see a guy waving madly from across the extremely crowded room. He says we've met, that he knows I'm a writer, and that he, John, wants to tell me a story about something that happened to him when he was a rookie.
"Do you have a pad?" he asks.
I dig into my purse and pull one out.
"It was back in 1986, and I was a brand-new policeman, and I come in here early on a Pay Day Wednesday. This gorgeous woman walks in, sits down and says she wants to buy the house a round. Well, there's only me, her and Sal the bartender, so we all have a drink. Ten minutes later, I'm in the bathroom, she robs the place. I come out of the bathroom, and Sal is not wearing his shirt, and he's handing over money to her." John's buddies begin sniggering and egging him on. I stop writing.
"Why are you stopping writing? Listen," says John. "She pulls out a .38, and says, 'Asshole, give me your wallet.' I wasn't wearing a gun, so I hand her my wallet, and she says, 'Hey, give me what's in the safe, too.' Sal says, 'I gave you the shirt off my back!'"
John's buddies begin cracking up, looking at me and shouting, "It's true! It's true!" All except for a fireplug of a guy crowding my left elbow, who begins to attack what he sees as John's credulity.
"Shut up! Stop talking to her, man! Shut up!" he shouts.
John continues: "So Sal's getting the money out of the floor safe, and I'm thinking, God, I can't go to roll call and say, 'I was in the Short Stop when it got robbed . . .'"
"Don't tell her shit, man! Why are you fucking talking to her?" the fireplug screams, getting in my face and grabbing the pad out of my hand. "What the fuck are you doing here, anyway?!"
I pull my pad back. "Look, you're a cop, and everybody's always giving you shit for no reason, right? You're doing the same thing to me! You don't know me . . ."
"I'm not a cop," he says.
"So listen, listen," John's saying, amid all the noise and music and laughter. "She leans over the bar to get to the floor safe, and her skirt falls up, and this giant penis falls out of her panties!"
The punch line. While John & Co. fall all over each other, yipping and yukking and insisting this story is true, the fireplug stands three inches from me, his eyes boring holes in my shoulder. Just as I'm thinking I might enjoy punching someone, out of the mayhem appears Sir Galahad, tall, clean-cut and smiling like the sun. He pushes past the fireplug, takes my hand, and pulls me from the fray and the brays and the humiliation.
"So, you're a writer," he says. He has beautiful teeth. "What are you writing?"
I tell him I'm writing about the Short Stop, at which point he brings his face so close to mine I think he is going to kiss me, and says, still smiling, "No one will ever tell you anything!" in a tone that sounds like barbed wire being pulled through intestine. I push through the crowd and back to my stool with my guts roiling.
I tell F. what's just happened. He nods. "Now you know how it feels to be hated for your position, for no reason. Now you are the poster child for every journalist who's ever written something crappy about a cop."
"I'LL TALK TO YOU ALL DAY LONG. I DON'T want anything hidden about what I do. Hell, I'll let you tape me."
It's early evening on a Monday in August, and Mike and I have the place practically to ourselves. Just off duty from his beat in Los Feliz, he is happy to tell me why many officers don't want the press sniffing around.
"Aside from the obvious -- that anything you print negative about the police sells -- keeping things secret maintains power. Maybe if we let a little of the mystique out, we won't be up on a pedestal anymore. Think about it. Does anyone want to give up their glory? Their way of being separate and special? You got 260 million people in this country. What the hell makes you special? Well, I'm a policeman."