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Chapter Twenty-Four

Communications Officer Patty Passman was overweight, with prematurely gray hair and bad skin. She was single, antisocial, and suffered from hypoglycemia, but she was no fool. She, too, knew that her parking meter on 10th Street was about to expire.

If she didn't get to her car before Otis Rhoad, he would anchor yet one more ticket beneath her wiper blade. What was it now? An average of two a week at sixteen dollars each? Of course she would be better off parking-in the nice new safe parking deck one street over, but there were no spaces left today. Whenever this happened she was forced out on the street, where Rhoad was always chalking tires and stalking expired meters.

Officer Budget recognized the red Jeep Cherokee immediately and couldn't believe he was pulling it again in the same damn parking lot. What was wrong with this guy? Was he doing it on purpose? Did he have some kind of dysfunction like those people who were always getting sick so they could go to the doctor?

The Jeep pulled into the Kmart parking lot, in front of First Union Bank, same as last time. Budget got out and approached the driver's door. Bubba was wearing camouflage. He was glassy-eyed and filthy. A dog was in a pen in the back. Budget rapped on the glass with his portable radio. Bubba rolled down his window.

'Step out of the car,' Budget said.

'If you don't mind, I'll just give you my license and registration like last time, Officer Budget. I've been up all night lost in the woods coon hunting.'

The racial slur was astonishing.

'Not a good time to say something like that, Mr. Fluck,' Budget said in an icy voice. 'How many you catch, huh? You hang 'em from trees or shoot 'em?'

'We get 'em in trees if we can,' Bubba said. 'It's not legal to shoot 'em right now.'

Budget jerked open the door and looked down at Bubba. He wanted to beat him up. It occurred to him that he might be able to get away with it since this was Rodney King in reverse. But they weren't in California.

'Once we get 'em up in the trees,' Bubba was talking too much because his nerves were frayed, 'we shine a light in their eyes. Course, it's the dogs that get them first, really. The dogs track 'em down.'

Budget looked back at Half Shell. The dog seemed docile enough.

'And just what kind of dog? Pit bulls? Dobermans?' Budget said hatefully.

'No, no. Coon dogs.'

'That's a coon dog in the back?'

'One of the best.'

Budget continued to stare at Half Shell. She stared back. She started barking and tried to break out of her pen.

'You sit right here and don't you move.' Budget backed away from the Jeep. 'And that dog gets out, you're in a lot of trouble.'

Passman was about to dash out to her car when 218 sounded in her headphones. 'Unit 218. Traffic stop,' Budget let her know. 'Go ahead, Unit 218.' Passman was stressed as she looked up at the clock.

'Sixty-eight hundred block Midlothian Turnpike with Boy-Union-Boy-hyphen-Adam-Henry.'

'Ten-4, 218 at 0748 hours,' Passman said, getting desperate.

Bubba punched in the cigarette lighter and noticed the tip of his.44 Magnum Colt Anaconda protruding from underneath his seat. Fear seized him. He broke into a cold sweat. He had a concealed weapon and no permit for such.

He kicked at the revolver, trying to shove it out of sight. It resisted his efforts, stainless steel glinting in plain view. Bubba slowly sneaked his right hand down to the floor, but his arm wasn't long enough to reach the gun unless he bent over or got on the floor. He knew it would not be a. good idea to give the impression he was hiding something or had hidden something under his seat.

Bubba shoved some more and realized that his monster revolver was hung up on something. He envisioned the release lever or a bolt or maybe an exposed spring pushing against the trigger. He imagined rotted fabric caught in the hammer. With the slightest motion the gun would go off.

Brazil had gotten off to a miserable start. He was hot. Gnats had begun to pay attention to him. His urge to use the bathroom overrode decorum and he'd finally relieved himself behind azalea bushes near a plot of realistic tree-shaped markers that had something to do with the Woodmen of the World.

Brazil was tired of waiting for Weed to show up. Brazil couldn't bear to admit that West had been right. Worse, he had to tell the radio room he needed a ride. The thought was awful.

All cops on the air and people with scanners would know Brazil was alone on foot in Hollywood Cemetery. He could hear the jokes. He could imagine the sniggers. The pretty boy's been reassigned to the dead beat.

'Unit 11,' Brazil got on the air.

'Go ahead, 11,' Patty Passman quickly came back.

'At Hollywood Cemetery. Need a unit to 10-25 me here.'

'Ten-4, 11, 0749 hours. 562.'

'Unit 562,' Rhoad came back.

Brazil recognized Talk in a Box's unit number and cringed. Oh please don't ask him to pick me up.

'Five-six-two. Need you to 10-25 a party at Hollywood Cemetery ASAP.' Passman's voice was strained as it came back.

Passman had fabricated calls in the past to divert Rhoad from her illegally parked car, and he wasn't about to fall for it this time.

'What's your 10-20?' Passman asked Rhoad over the air.

'Unit 562. Broad and Fourteenth,' he answered.

'Ten-4, 562, 0750 hours.'

'Unit 562,' he got back to her.

'Five-six-two.'

'Unit 562,' he said. 'Got to make one stop first. Can 10-30 11 with an estimated 10-26 of 0830 hours.'

'Eleven,' Brazil shoved his way on the air. 'Radio, can you send another unit? Need to get out of here long before then.'

Passman was in a panic as she glanced up at the clock. She frantically stuffed the other half of a chocolate eclair into her mouth.

'Eleven, that's 10-10,' she informed Brazil. 'All other units are 10-6.'

'Can you 10-9 that?' 'All other units are 10-6,' she repeated. It was a lie. Everyone on the air knew radio traffic had been light so far, with no indication whatsoever that all other units, or even half of them, were tied up.

'Ten-12.' She told Brazil to stand by.

'Eleven.' Brazil's voice was getting irritated. Ten-5 562 and ask his 10-20.'

'Five-six-two.' Rhoad didn't wait for the message to be relayed, since he clearly heard what unit 11 asked and was capable of being direct. 'Ten-20's Broad and 9th.'

'Well, can you 10-25 me now or not?'

'Ten-10. Got to make a stop first." 'Radio, can you please get me another ride?' Brazil asked again.

'Ten-10, 11. Five-six-two's en route.'

'Five-six-two. No I'm not. I got to make a stop first.'

Passman finished the eclair.

'I need someone to 10-25 me ASAP,' Brazil answered back.

'Five-six-two. Can't do it, 11.'

Mikes began clicking as other cops on the air voiced their amusement and encouraged Rhoad and Brazil to keep it up.

'Units 562 and 11,' Passman snapped into her microphone. 'Ten-3.'

Passman's order to stop transmitting brought about complete silence, but only temporarily. 'Five-six-two.' Rhoad could not stop. He was addicted. 'Could you 10-9 that?' he said.

'Ten-3.' Passman ordered him for the last time, in the secret language of cops, to shut up.

'Eleven?' Rhoad could not.

There was no response.

'Eleven?' Rhoad repeated, talking faster, doing his best to outrun Communications Officer Passman, whose habit it was to cut him off and speak unkindly whenever she could. 'Everything 10-4?'

'No!' Passman blurted into her mike. 'Everything's not 10-4, unit 562! It's 10-10!' she exclaimed.

Her hands were shaking. She felt faint. Patty Passman was furious at a damn city that had no parking for loyal employees like her who worked eight-hour shifts in the windowless, dimly lit radio room, talking to lump-heads like Otis Rhoad. Her blood sugar spiked. Insulin dumped.

Her blood sugar went crashing lower than before. Her vision blacked out and she almost fainted when she jumped to her feet, turning over her coffee. Other dispatchers answered other calls as she ran out of the radio room.

Officer Budget had been waiting ten minutes for Communications Officer Passman to get back to him. Budget finally got another dispatcher to run a 10-27 and 10-28 on Bubba's red Jeep.

Budget was disappointed but not surprised to learn that Butner U. Fluck IV's driver's license was still valid through 2003 with no restrictions, and that the Jeep continued to be registered to the same party with an address on Clarence Street in the city.

'Shit,' Budget said.

He climbed out of his cruiser and approached the Jeep again, pleased to find Bubba seemed appropriately scared for once.

'I'm charging you with reckless driving,' Officer Budget said severely, doing his best to make the asshole feel even worse. 'But you're lucky it's not a lot worse. So Mr. Fluck, head" 'Please,' Bubba interrupted, holding up an arm as if he were about to be struck.

'About time you showed some manners,' Budget said, returning Bubba's identification and registration.

Passman's stubby feet rang loudly on worn metal steps as she raced up to the street, her heart startled like a deer or a duck fired upon. Her chest heaved as she shoved through double glass doors.

Rhoad was parking his patrol car next to her 1989 white Fleetwood Cadillac. The toe of her left New Balance jogging shoe caught on a crack in the sidewalk. She stumbled but caught herself, flailing and out of alignment.

'Stop!' she yelled at Rhoad as he approached her car, ticket book in hand, pen out. 'No!' she screamed.

The digital reading clearly showed the time on the meter had expired.

'Sorry,' Rhoad told her.

'You're not sorry, you son of a bitch!' Passman jabbed her finger at him as she fought to catch her breath.

Rhoad was unflappable as he filled in the meter number, the vehicle make and license plate number, and the mode, which in this case was an A for automobile. Rhoad slipped the ticket inside its envelope. He tucked it under the wiper blade. Passman moved closer to him, glaring, panting, sweating, her blood roaring. She drilled small dark homicidal eyes into him.

'I would have gotten here sooner and moved my car if you could shut the fuck up on the air!' she bellowed. 'It's your goddamn fault! It's always your goddamn fault, you stupid, cow-brained loser, cross-eyed, dickless, son-of-a-mother-fucking-bitch-dumb-fuck!'

She marched to her Cadillac and snatched the summons off the windshield. She violently wadded it in his face and stuffed it down the front of his neatly pressed uniform shirt, knocking loose his clip-on tie.

'Now you've done it,' Rhoad told her indignantly.

She flipped him a double bird.

'You're under arrest!' he exclaimed.

Traffic slowed, people ready for a good fight on an otherwise meaningless Wednesday morning.

'Stuff it up your ass!' Passman screamed.

'Go, girlfriend!' a woman called out from her Acura.

Rhoad fumbled with the handcuffs on the back of his Sam Browne belt as Passman yelled more obscenities, her blood sugar dipping lower into its dark crevice of irrationality and violence as an audience gathered and encouraged her.

Rhoad grabbed Passman's wrists. She kicked him in both shins and spat. He sputtered, wrenching her left arm behind her back as her right fist knuckle-punched him in the neck. Rhoad had not handcuffed anyone in many years, and steel cracked against Passman's wrist bone as he snapped and missed. Passman howled in pain as he jerked and smacked and steel jaws finally locked around her wrist and bit hard.

'Do it! Do it!' someone yelled from a black Corvette.

Passman's free hand grabbed Rhoad between his legs and twisted.


Chapter Twenty-Three | Southern Cross | Chapter Twenty-Five