Los Angeles, California, 1992
It’s ironic that LA is known as the City of Angels. Work the streets and you see there is nothing angelic about it. It’s a Gemini; the LA that tourists love, and the LA that cops know. Now Detective Bobby Morgan, a fifteen year vet, worked with seven other officers in the NGH Unit, working cases with three consistent elements; narcotics, gangs and homicide.
Bobby worked South Central LA, where violence, drugs and money seemed to go together. If it wasn’t bodies, it was drugs, if it wasn’t drugs it was gangs. South Central was spiraling out of control. Bobby knew it, every cop in the unit; hell every cop in the department knew that they were chasing their tails half the time.
He worked six days a week and was none too pleased when he got a call ordering him downtown; he played through various scenarios as he waited with the rest of his team in the third floor conference room at the Central Community Police Station.
“Why are we here?” complained Rich, a 20 year vet of the department. “Why the fuck did we have to come down here, and where the fuck is Lieutenant at?”
“Good question,” answered Louis “all I know is if one of you mother fuckers did something to get us in trouble I will shoot you myself. Me and the old lady were supposed to spend the day together and when I told her I got called in she said I wasn’t getting any for a month. That shit is not cool.”
“My guess is someone got caught in a net you know, politician’s kid found dead in the wrong part of town, something like that.” Bobby said, “Now they want us to play TV cops and find the killer and bring him to justice.”
“No, that’s too easy,” Louis insisted, “someone in this room took a bribe from a dope dealer, that’s what happened, and when I find out who it was, I’m whoopin’ their ass, that’s all I have to say.”
“Maybe we’re all on the take Lou, did you ever think of that?” Rich teased.
The door to the conference room swung open and Lieutenant Wallace strode in, shutting the door decisively behind him. He smiled at his team, tossing a file on the table in front of him. “Good you’re all here, we can get started,” he said as he sat down.
“Yo Lieu, I just want to say, whatever the rest of these fools did, you know I didn’t have anything to do with it. If you need me to testify against them, just say the word.”
“Shut up Louis, this is serious.” Wallace opened the file in front of him. “Here’s the situation; in the past two months there have been twelve homicides in South Central that are nearly identical. The victims were all under the age of 21, each was a known dealer, known gang member, and each was shot execution style in the back of the head. Here’s the kicker. Half of the guns used have been found near the victims. The other half were traced by running the bullets through our database. Each weapon used in these murders originated from the Los Angeles Police Department.”
“What the fuck did you say?” Rich said, sitting up.
“Twelve guns, each confiscated in the last year by this department, held in evidence by this department, and are no longer in the custody of this department.”
The guys looked at each other, the severity sinking in. “Lieutenant, are you saying that someone in the LAPD is running confiscated guns back to the streets?”
“The ATF believes this to be the case.”
“Whoa, whoa, the ATF? Who the hell brought in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?”
“Chief.” Morgan said bluntly.
The men exchanged looks again, silent thought heavy throughout the room. “Does the ATF suspect someone?”
“No, not at this time.”
“No one in this room is under investigation?”
“Of course not. If you were I’d have personally taken you into custody. That’s not why you’re here.”
“Then why are we here Lieutenant?”
“Because Chief wants each of you to get to know the ATF.”
“Oh no, no, I can see where this is going,” Rich said standing, “this doesn’t have shit to do with getting acquainted or making new friends.”
“You’re absolutely right. Effective immediately, on order from the Chief, each of you will be partnered with an agent from the ATF, so consider yourselves a new task force. They aren’t going away until this issue is resolved, and we figure out who the fuck is putting these guns back out there.”
Bobby stood, “Lieutenant, how is this supposed to work? We’re supposed to partner with a bunch of high horse mother fuckers who don’t know shit about what we do, how we do it, or why? And what do they know about Central? How many times do we get shot at in a given week, hell, a given day? I’m supposed to put my life in the hands of someone I don’t even know? Someone who sits behind a desk all day pushing paper?”
“Let me be clear, in case I wasn’t before,” Morgan said, “no one in this room has a choice, including me. Yes, Morgan, you are expected to work with and entrust your life to a complete stranger. Your every day activities will stay the same, you’ll run down suspects, serve warrants conduct surveillance, bahis firmaları and go under when needed. Most importantly, you’ll be using every connection you have to figure out where the hell the guns are coming from.”
“Seems we already know that, they’re coming from the LAPD,” Rich said.
“That’s right, they are coming from the LAPD. Let me ask you this; how will you feel if one of your brothers in this room goes down, and you find out later that the gun that was used to kill him was confiscated by this department, but someone who claims to protect and serve this city, put it in the hands of a killer, because I’ll tell you what, it’s only a matter of time before something like that goes down. Having the ATF onboard provides us with cover; we need an outside agency to be a part of this investigation. No one in the department, with the exception of the Chief and the assistant Chiefs, knows what is going on. The outside story is that this special task force will work to decrease the number of underage shootings, deaths and drug involvement, but we won’t point to any of these cases; unfortunately there are enough underage shootings that we won’t have to. We don’t want to spook the rat, we want to catch him. You cannot discuss this with anyone outside this room.”
“I agree with all of that,” Louis said, “but if I get shot because one of these mother fuckers freezes up, that’s it, I’m shooting somebody’s ass my damn self, and I’m serious about that.”
“Lieutenant when is this investigation supposed to start?” Bobby asked.
“Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. It hurts the family, the community, it hurts our entire city. The Los Angeles Police Department is dedicated to protecting the children of this city. We are dedicated to protecting our children from those who seek to do them harm, from those who work to ensnare our children into a life of drugs or violence…” Bobby hated being paraded in front of the press, yet there he was. Members of NGH stood in a row on one side of the podium, while the agents from the ATF stood in a row on the other side. In the long line of uniformed men, Bobby noticed one petite, dark haired woman towards the end of the row. He recognized her immediately.
Driving through the parking lot at police headquarters just a half an hour before, he’d rushed to an open parking spot, but a dark blue sedan with tinted windows beat him to it. He slammed on the breaks behind the car, and instantly recognized the government license plates. The dark haired woman stepped from the car clad in black stilettos and a black suit. Bobby knew he could be somewhat of a jerk at times, but he didn’t care. He rolled down his window and ripped into her.
“Guest parking is around the back!” He shouted.
She turned, expressionless, and seemed to size him up for a moment.
“Whatever happened to interdepartmental cooperation?” she asked.
“Detectives usually park here.”
She scanned the row of cars, “I don’t see a reserved sign.”
“It’s an unwritten understanding sweetheart.”
“Well unwritten understandings aren’t legally binding in this case, so why don’t you part around back.”
“You must be new.”
“I said you must be new to whatever government agency you represent because you still have that bitchy, I am woman hear me roar attitude about you. Girls who have been around don’t talk like that.”
“Girls? Girls? They don’t talk like what? What you mean to say is they swallow your male domination bullshit because we live in a male dominated society, where a man can say, ‘eh bitch, move your car’, and she actually will.”
“Alright, if that’s how you want to look at it fine. So why don’t you move the damn car?”
“Because I’m not a girl, detective, I’m a woman.”
“…to announce a new task force, in conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire Arms. Together we will restore safety for our children, free of gang violence, and free from the pressures some may face to sell or use narcotics. We have selected officers from our renowned Narcotics, Gangs and Homicide Unit; some of the best of the best…”
Next came the sensational questions from the press: “Chief, should Los Angeles’ children worry that they will be forced into a life of crime and drug use?” “Chief, did you bring in the ATF because you aren’t confident in your department?” “Chief, when will we see concrete results, if another child dies, is this entire effort for nothing?”
The officers made a beeline for the door as soon as the press conference was over, but now matter how quickly they moved, it was never quick enough.
“Excuse me, Detective Morgan?” Bobby turned around to find a young woman smiling up at him, her hand extended, “My name is Laura Wells, with the Times, I was wondering if you might answer a few questions?”
“Well honey the people you want to talk to are over there,” he said pointing towards the Chief, still at the front of the room.
“But I think you have an interesting kaçak iddaa take on the situation,” she pressed. “Your daughter attended Carson Elementary, right? Ella Morgan, that’s your daughter?”
“Why don’t you get the fuck outta here?” Rich said bluntly, stepping to Bobby’s side.
“I just wanted to ask Detective Morgan…”
“You’re not asking him shit sweetheart, so take your pen and your paper and your little Sharper Image digital recorder and get the hell outta here, alright?” Rich smiled at her, then grabbed Bobby’s elbow, turning his back to the reporter. “You good?”
He nodded, “I’ll meet you all back upstairs,” and walked from the room.
When Bobby came through the double doors of the third floor conference room, the Chief, Lieutenant Morgan, agents from the ATF and the rest of his unit were already inside. Bobby moved to the end of the table and listened with disinterest. He’d learned a long time ago that police Chiefs were nothing more than politicians; they’d long since forgotten what it was like to be outside and on the street, what is was like to have bullets flying all around you, and what it was like to see death, day, after day, after day.
“You missed the best part,” Louis said, edging closer to Bobby, “this mother fucker just finished telling us that those bastards are now considered de facto members of the LAPD. He gave each of them a badge.”
“Great, two badges means twice the ego,” Bobby replied.
The Chief finished his remarks, shook hands with each ATF agent, and left. Lieutenant Wallace stepped to the head of the table.
“This is how it’s going to work. Each LAPD Detective will be partnered with an ATF agent. Each team will get two of the cases to work from. From this moment on we work out of the SCPS in Watts, believe it or not they have room for all of us. We will meet every day at 7:00AM to debrief the previous day and prepare for the day ahead. Now, as for partner assignments. Louis, you’ll be partnered with Agent Williams, Rich, Agent Marcos, Dave, you’ll be with agent Hollins, Mark, Agent Dain, Drew, Agent Thompson, Tim, Agent Hants, Walter, Agent Anderson, Bobby, Agent Davio. I know that this is a unique situation we are all in. But one thing we have in common is that we are all members of law enforcement, and we all want to catch the son of a bitch who’s putting guns on our streets. I requested that each ATF agent assigned to this case be a long time resident of LA to help offset the learning curve. You’re to watch each other’s backs, take care of each other; we’re all here for the same purpose, and there’s no time like the present. So,” he said rubbing his hands together, “find your new partner, grab two of these files and get to it. Any questions? No, well let’s go then.”
Lieutenant Wallace left the room and the Detectives and ATF agents worked to figure out who was who, and which case files they would take on. Bobby watched the row of Agents, seven men and one woman, trying to figure out who Agent Davio was. Just as he’d pegged the taller one for his new partner, he noticed the busty, petite, dark haired woman cross the room directly in his path.
“Which one are you looking for?” he said, trying hard not to think about their first exchange in the parking lot, and equally hard to not focus all of his attention on her soft, pouty lips.
“I’m your new partner. Case Davio, ATF”, she stuck out her hand and he shook it warily, and noticed the guys from his unit stealing glances his way. It would be Bobby’s luck that’d he’d get stuck with the new girl.
The ride from downtown to Watts was quiet, and Case could sense that Bobby was silently steaming over his partner assignment. Not knowing him from a can of paint, she opted to wait the silence out. She guessed he was in his forties, probably on the force for more than 15 years, judging by the lines at the corners of his eyes. He was handsome; six foot three or so, brown eyes and a buzz cut. In the end looks didn’t matter; he could be incompetent in his work, or a total ass, which meant the next six months or so could be hell for her, hence, staying quite on the ride to the Watts station.
“Is this some kind of fucking joke?” Bobby said, bursting into Lieutenant Wallace’s office.
“Take a breath. Where’s your partner?”
“She is not my partner, she’s not even old enough to be on the force!”
“Where is she Bobby?”
“Inside, probably filing her nails or something. Lieutenant, a girl? Are you serious or is someone crazy? And what the hell kind of a name is Case Davio? It sounds like a stripper; don’t tell me you didn’t notice. Case? Case?”
“Bobby,” Wallace said, his tone stern.
“I can’t ride with her.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
“Sure I do. I could refuse.”
“Which would get you suspended. And when they ask you why you refused, and you tell them because she is the opposite sex, you’ll lose your badge. You can’t discriminate against her for being a woman.”
“She’s barely four feet tall!”
“That’s bullshit and kaçak bahis you know it. Sit down.” Bobby crossed his arms. “I said sit down Robert.” Bobby took the chair across from Wallace’s desk. “Alright now listen to me. There is no way in hell that I would agree to send anyone from my team out there with dead weight. Agent Davio is not a glorified paper pusher. She’s worked field ops for the ATF for six years. Before that she was with the NYPD. She worked narc for three years and was a detective for four before going to the feds. Her files are clean; she’s good at what she does. And for the record it says here that she’s five foot six inches tall.”
“So how long have you known this was coming down?”
“And you didn’t say shit to any of us until now?”
“I was a little busy checking out these agents and pushing back on the Chief’s office for making this move, so yea, I didn’t tell you. And what if I did? This was inevitable. Once Chief made up his mind, that was it. Now you have to take a breath, and not be such as asshole. If you have a shit attitude about this, it isn’t going to work. More importantly, if Agent Davio feels like you’re not treating her like one of the team, or that you’re keeping her out of the loop of this investigation, you know good and well there will be hell to pay, and none of us can afford that. Davio is your partner, so kill all that other stuff. I expect you to make it work, are we clear?”
“Oh yea,” Bobby said standing, “crystal.”
Seven weeks had passed at an agonizing pace.
Bobby and Case were responsible for two of the twelve shooting victims; Oscar Vasquez, age 17, and Darren Williams, 15. So far they’d found no connection between the two. In fact, no connections could be made between any of the victims, and Bobby’s patience was wearing thin. They’d interviewed families, friends and teachers, but still nothing connected them beyond the manner of death or the weapons used to do it.
They were driving the streets of Compton while Bobby looked for an informant, hoping to squeeze some information out of him, but in three days of looking, they’d come up empty.
“Stop the car,” Case said suddenly.
“I saw something in that alley we just passed, stop the car.”
Bobby pulled to the curb and they got out, walking to the alley between the drycleaners and the pay day loan office. Halfway down was a man, holding a woman by the throat, screaming at her as she coughed and gasped for air. Bobby drew his gun and they rushed forward.
“LAPD! Let her go and step back!” he shouted as they moved closer. The man looked up, shocked, and then dropped his hand from the woman’s throat, his arms up. “Step away from her!” he yelled again.
The man took two steps back as Bobby and Case closed in, then turned and bolted in the other direction.
“Shit!” Bobby said, holstering his gun.
“I got it!” Case yelled and shot after him.
“Davio!” Bobby shouted, but it was too late, in a matter of seconds she was out of his sight. He took off running, passing the victim; “stay right here!” he yelled as he ran out of the alley. He could see Case ahead by about thirty yards, the suspect another twenty or so, and the pursuit was on; down Central avenue, across 103rd street, south on Wilmington, then over to 105th street before cutting down Juniper. Bobby’s lungs were burning, but he kept his tread steady, his eyes on Agent Davio’s back. As she and the suspect rounded a corner about fifty yards ahead of him, Bobby heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot. His mind froze while his body kicked into overdrive, and he sprinted around the corner. Agent Davio was on the ground, the suspect was on top of her. She had one arm linked in a tight half-nelson, the other wrapped forcefully around the man’s throat as he struggled to get free; a handgun about five feet away. Bobby pulled his gun and pointed it at the suspect.
“Don’t you fucking move!” He looked at Davio, her face bloody, “are you hit?”
She shook her head, out of breath, and with a new wave of energy, flipped the suspect onto his stomach, and pulled handcuffs from her belt, securing them around his wrists before falling back against the nearest wall.
Bobby grabbed the man by the shirt and pulled him to his feet, pushing him against a dumpster.
“Yo that bitch is crazy man, she tried to choke the shit outta me, man, she kicked me in my fucking nuts!”
“What bitch would that be?” Bobby asked.
“That bitch right there!” he yelled.
“Oh her? That’s no bitch man, that’s my partner; did you try and shoot my partner?”
“I ain’t saying shit, I want a lawyer!”
“I bet the hell you do.” He looked over at Case, “what happened to your forehead?”
“Elbow,” she huffed, motioning to the man. She pulled out her cell phone and called dispatch for backup.
“That’s assaulting an officer, as if attempting to kill her wasn’t bad enough, boy you’ve gotten yourself into some shit!” Sirens echoed nearby. Bobby patted the man down, checking for weapons, and pulled a wallet from his back pocket. “Julio Rodriguez,” he said reading the name on the ID card. “You hear those sirens Julio, they’re coming to give you your own special escort to county jail, you lucky bastard.”