The clanging bells woke Evans at 2:00 a.m. He took a warm shower. He put on another brown shirt, his holster, brown trousers, and a houndstooth coat. He walked down the block to an all-night colored diner.
“Morning Moses! You out late or up early?” asked the cheerful waitress. Moses had a porkchop baked in tomatoes and four cups of black coffee. The chop was tender as chicken breast and the coffee was fresh. He rode the bus to Union Station in the creamy langour of a man awake but too early, feeling that the best part of a long day was behind him. From the station he caught a bus to Newton Street, and drove to Crocker Center.
Despite the early hour, he still avoided using the elevator. He returned to the conference room on the third floor.
The black detectives of the Special Investigations Squad were all present, and none of the whites of Robbery/Homicide.
“Now, this won't do,” said Lieutenant Freeman, smiling wryly. “You men go smoke in the parking lot and I'll send for you after the others come in.”
The black men filed down the stairs to stand in the parking lot.
“Can't show up the white man,” said Detective-Sergeant Jewell Tyrell with a Texas twang. “Got to do wrong to get right.”
“Ain't no such thing as an innocent Negro,” said Detective Mike Franzy.
“I hope I can facilitate some movement in the Negro community,” said Tyrell.
“That captain sure is smart, to notice we're Negroes,” said Dan Selby.
'You fellows think we'll get some leads today?” asked Rudy Eli.
“Nobody going to talk to white cops about their troubles,” said Tyrell. “Captain knows it, he's just spinning the wheels.”
“No,” said Evans. “He's following the only real trace we have. He's just making sure Robbery/Homicide will get all credit for anything we find. If you're all as smart as you want to be, you get the witnesses in a line, with your white man talking to one end of the line and you work the other end toward the middle. That way you might find out something. Then whatever you find out, give it to Lieutenant Freeman after you come in.”
A white cop walked out onto the steps and hollered “Hey! You boys! You're wanted!” The men ground out their cigarettes and walked over to the third floor.
The Robbery/Homicide detectives were seated as before. Captain Brewster was shuffling papers on his podium. Lieutenant Freeman stood again in the back of the room. From Freeman's placid expression and ramrod bearing, he had been bawled out.
“Alright,” said Brewster. “Here's the assignments.
“Derren, you're with Eli. Fabian, you're with Franzy. Garey, you're with Gaios. Guerino, you're with Selby. Macario, you're with Wilke. Tiede, you're with Yeho – natan.”
Evans wondered if the Captain thought alphabetical order was some kind of secret code in the Department.
“Detective-Sergeant Roldan, you're with Detective-Sergeant Tyrell. Detective-Sergeant Wilson, you're with Detective-Sergeant Evans.”
Captain Brewster turned a page.
“Derren, and Fabian: take the docks of Los Angeles Harbor. Gary, take the workers at Hoover Pedestrian Mall. Guerino, you take the workers at Olivera Street.
Macario, check out the McKenna truckyard. Tiede, you take the Olson lumberyard.
“Those are just probables. We know that Jackson was hired at the Coleman truckyard. Wilson, you take that one. Elmswood was hired at the Bisk Tool & Lumber. Roldan, you check it out.”
Evans noted that Captain Brewster had addressed the white officers exclusively.
“Any questions?” asked Brewster.
“Then better get moving, they usually start there about 5 a.m. Report back here tonight at 12:00 p.m. “
Lieutenant Freeman said “A word, squad.” The black men gathered around the Lieutenant in the back of the room. “Remember what I said, you got to deliver on this one, men. It's on all of you. Just mind your step with these Robbery/Homicide fellows. If you get something, keep me in the loop.”
Evans remembered Freeman had been a good detective before he was promoted to what amounted to Negro ambassador to Headquarters. He resolved that he would seek Freeman's counsel more closely.
The men split up into pairs. Evans came to stand beside Detective-Sergeant Jack Wilson, a strong man in his middle-forties with blue eyes and hair like damp straw. He wore a black Stetson and a black suit with red pinstripes and a silver bolo tie.
“That was some solid work, Evans. You know this truckyard?”
“Only heard of it yesterday, sir.”
“Well, we'll go check it out.”
The two headed to the door. Evans turned down the hall towards the stairs. Wilson stopped. “Take the elevator with me, I don't mind.” Evans followed with some suprise.
In the elevator, Wilson said, “I don't know what you'll get from those workers. It strikes me that anybody who knows anything would be scared to talk.”
“What I'll get?” Evans stared at Wilson. “Sir.”
Wilson smiled. “I know why they have a colored squad, Evans. I won't get anything out of these guys. The best thing I can do for the new few hours is keep an eye out for a white Chevy.”
“Think we'll see it, Mr. Wilson?” asked Evans.
“That depends on how stupid they are, and I don't know them. They did a pretty thorough job of murder though. Just be on the jump if I whistle. It means we'll have to chase them.”
They walked across the asphalt lot towards the parked cars.
“Speaking of being on the jump,” said Wilson a little too casually, “you know how to use that gat?”
“Yes sir. Shot down a punk in 2008. I thought about it, Mr. Wilson. I'd back out if I couldn't hang.”
And how about you? Evans thought to himself. Are you as good as Selby, our veteran of dozens of Mexican ambushes? But Wilson was a white man and could not be challenged.
They reached Evan's blue Ford.
“Shit! what a jalopy,” said Wilson. He got in the passenger's side. Evans was pleased it was the front seat. “Strikes me as a bit of razzle-dazzle. We don't know for sure whether your Chevy is involved in the killings. And we can't cover all the sites for day labor in Los Angeles. Not all at once.”
“It strikes me as the best angle to check, sir.”
“Since Captain Brewster thinks so, I'll agree.”
They rode along towards the truck yard.
“Why you take up policing, Evans?” Wilson asked.
Evans looked at him, then kept driving. “My father pushed me to try for it. He said I was savvy and law-abiding. Might as well get paid for it.”
Wilson laughed. “Was he a preacher, Evans?”
“He was a Godly man. But he ran a boxing gym.
'Folly is close to the heart of a child,
But the rod of discipline will drive it from him'.
That was my dad's way,” said Evans.
“My dad ran a sawmill,” said Wilson. “He didn't think much of me joining a police force. He believed in the rod of discipline though.” He looked out the window. “But I had my own way.”
Evans bit his tongue. Wilson's father had been a white man. “I had five years on the mean streets, then made Detective,” he did say.
Wilson said “Four as patrol officer, then Detective. What about the rest of your squad, they have similar background? I'm curious what makes up an ethnic force.”
“All of them are solid policemen, sir.”
“No doubt.” They rode in silence for a time. “I mean that. I don't doubt it. It seems to me a different kind of cop. I am curious.”
“You'll be seeing it working today,” said Evans.
The Coleman truckyard was a bare six acres of gravel fenced in by two chain-link enclosures. German shepherds ran between. Inside the inner yard were a dozen heavy trucks, silent now. About a dozen men stood by the gate, ignoring the dogs who danced in fury behind them.
Evans parked a block past it at a spot that gave a good view of the road running past the truckyard.
“Good enough, sir?” he asked Wilson.
“Good enough,” said Wilson, digging out an unfiltered cigarette. “Good luck.”
Evans walked back over the wet pavement to the group of men. They stopped talking as he approached. He was the only man present wearing a tie and white shirt.
“Morning,” he said. Some nodded to him. Evans took out his badge and showed it. “Dectective-Sergeant Moses Evans, Special Investigations Squad. I wanted to talk to you men about Jim Jackson.”
Nobody said anything. Nobody quit looking at him either.
“You all remember Jim Jackson? I hear he was out here just yesterday.”
Nobody said anything.
“Jim Jackson is dead. He died by violence. I'm trying to learn all I can about him.”
A gaunt older man scuffed his feet and said, “Jim Jackson was a solid man. They shouldn't have done that to him.”
“Who did that to him?”
The old man didn't look up.
“I saw his wife, Alma. She said you men were having some trouble. She said Jim was worked up about it.”
The old man looked up at him. “I'd forget Mrs. Jackson said that, mister. Ain't nobody gonna help Negro day labor. And that's the true deal.”
“I'm out here now trying to help you.”
“I'd help myself by forgetting I saw you,” said the old man.
“All right,” said Evans. “So there was trouble, and Jackson was going to help. What do you owe some white men, that you'll hush it up?”
Nobody said anything.
“I'm not taking down any names,” said Evans. “Nobody got to testify if that's what's fretting you. But Jackson got hired by some roughnecks, and there was trouble, and now he's dead. Nobody is trying to sweep that under the rug. We're trying to put daylight on it.”
A small truck pulled up and the men swept past Evans to talk to the driver and passenger. Three of the laborers climbed into the truck bed. The small truck drove away. The others came back to stand before the gate.
“There now,” said Evans. “I'm not trying to bust up your livelihood. I'm not parked out front of here and stopping you from getting jobs. I'm trying to help you get on with your day. I just have some questions about Jim Jackson and the men who hired him.”
“And we're just not saying anything,” said one of the men.
“Jackson was one of you,” said Evans.
“And one of us could be Jackson,” said the man.
The old man asked “Do you really think they're gonna show up here after what they did? Cause if they are, any chance of it, we ain't said nothing to you. I guess I can't throw you off the pavement, but we won't say nothing to you.”
“I guess it's like that, the next day after and all. So you'll go back to work for them?”
“Didn't say that. I expect they won't show at all after what happened,” said the older man.
Evans thought he was probably right. Another small truck came, taking two more men. He was not making much progress, except he was with men who had known Jackson and his troublesome employers.
“What sort of trouble did they have?” asked Evans.
“Balls,” said the old man.
“I have some cards here with our number on it. Take one, and if you change your mind later, then call us anytime of day or night. We can respect a secret.”
None of the men would take a card.
A tall youth yelled, “Hey. Mister. I got a mother and a baby sister at home. I got no job. I didn't get hired all week. You gonna investigate that for me?”
Evans said sadly, “No, I'm not one to look into that, son.”
“Ain't nobody looking into that one,” said the youth. “So I got nothing to say about Jim Jackson.”
Evans walked back to the car.
“So now what?” asked Wilson.
“We try again tomorrow,” said Evans.
“Tomorrow, hell! We just started on today. Now what?”
“Well, I guess we report back that we got nothing. And we try again tomorrow, and maybe somebody feels like telling us anything, and we spend a day looking into it. For now, I don't know.”
Wilson nodded. “I can tell you Robbery/Homicide won't be tied down like that for long. There's too much crime in this city as it is. Maybe the Negro Squad has more time on its hands.”
“We have other assignments, sir. This one takes priority right now.”
“Easily.” Wilson lit a cigarette. “But I'll probably still be with you tomorrow anyhow. You think any of them will talk?”
“They're talking now,” said Evans. “It's just not much useful information. But they are open enough to say that's what they're doing.”
“Want a hand to apply the muscle?” asked Wilson.
Evans looked at him. Wilson was smiling but he didn't seem excited. He didn't seem like he was itching to beat up some stuffy negroes. “No sir, I don't think that's necessary.”
Evans walked back to the line of waiting men. They seemed surprised to see him again. Evans chose to start with the older man as being more garrulous and mature. “What's your name, sir? You may not recall, I'm Moses Evans.”
“You don't need my name for nothing,” said the old man.
“I'm working this double-murder case,” said Evans. “I'm back at it. We're going to keep coming back at it. We know Jim Jackson was hired out of this truck yard We're going to have a chat with his boss. You're going to see me every day until that happens. Now come on, man, speak at me like a human being.”
“Ronald Overton,” said the older man. “Say Mr. Evans, you trying to put the finger on me? We got no protection. We have to be out here to eat. Or somewhere like this place.”
“You got two detectives here with you now. We got other detectives at other areas. So don't think you can find another job site and duck the police. We're out finding answers. We're gonna find the men that hired Jim Jackson. You got nothing to say to me, Mr. Overton?”
Evans thought the older man was too easy with what made sense. He could not really promise protection to these men. Except that they caught the employers of Jim Jackson. If they were the killers after all, he reminded himself.
“Where you come from, Mr. Overton?”
“Chicago, Illinois,” said Overton, slowly.
“That's a rough town I hear. My folks are from Abilene, Texas. My father ran a gym.”
“ Folks come up from Memphis, Tennessee to Chicago. Gotta move around to earn a living. It's hard, terrible hard in Dixie.”
“How about you, young man? What's your collar?” asked Evans.
“Jesse Williams,” said the young man, who was not as angry. He was dressed in sloppy denims and a checked work shirt.
“Where your folks from?”
“My folks come from Memphis. We're here to find work.”
“And finding it rough going?” asked Evans. The youth nodded.
Evans talked to two more burly workers. They gave their names as Ray Jones and Bill Sampson. Jones said that he had come out from Chicago hearing work was a little easier in Los Angeles. Sampson had come from a plantation in Mississippi, having heard that Los Angeles was friendlier towards black men. They said nothing about Jim Jackson or the men who had hired him.
None of the other men were willing to give as much as their names to Evans. He trudged back through the gravel to where Wilson sat, smoking.
“Get anything?” asked Wilson.
“Got the names of some of these men, sir,” said Evans.
“That's all?” asked Wilson.
“That's all, sir,” said Evans. “I'll get more out of them as we go.”
Wilson sat in silence, smoking a cigarette. “It strikes me you move pretty slowly, Evans. I mean, your squad does.”
“These people want protection, sir. By coming here they're seeing that we're a form of protection. It's just a matter of earning trust.”
“I guess you figure on having enough time?”
“How do you mean, sir?” asked Evans.
“I mean that's not how Robbery/Homicide moves along,” said Wilson. “We're more into results. We take direct action to get results.”
Evans remembered Wilson's offer. “These people are witnesses, not suspects, sir. If they get flustered, they'll waste our time with false information.”
“You mean they'll lie.”
“I mean they'll aim to please and say what they think is most pleasing at the moment. Sir. And we'll have to track it down.”
“Yah. I see what you mean.”
“You'll see the results, sir. One tip and we'll have the day to follow it up. Could be tomorrow. We just have to plug at it.”
“Well then. Plug away, Detective-Sergeant.”
Evans walked back to the labor line when a green Ford sedan pulled up to the curb across the street. A lone white man got out of the car and came over to the line of black men.
“Morning!” he shouted and waved.
“Morning, sir,” said the laborers.
“Good morning, sir,” said Evans distinctly a second later. He did not recognize the man.
“I'm looking for friends of a Jim Jackson. You boys know him?” said the man. He was pudgy and wore a dark grey suit and tan overcoat and a dark brown cloth cap.
Evans raised a hand to Wilson, then stepped forward. “Who's asking, sir,” he said, reaching for his badge.
“I'm asking,” said the man, staring at the line of men, and not looking towards Moses Evans. “You there, what's your name? Did you know Jim Jackson?”
“Excuse me, sir,” said Evans. “Los Angeles Police Department.” He held his badge and ID card. “I must ask you how you know Jim Jackson.”
“Don't mean shit to me, Evans,” said the white man. I'm press.” He turned to face Ronald Overton. ”You, old man, what's your name?”
“Don't anybody say nothing here,” said Evans. “Sir, you are impeding a police investigation. May I see your press card?”
“No,” said the white man firmly to Evans. He kept facing Overton. “I asked your name, fella!” He grabbed Overton's arm.
“What's the trouble, pal?” asked Jack Wilson, grabbing the man's arm above the elbow in a pain lock.
“Press,” hissed the man. “I got credentials. Let me get them out.” Wilson still held his arm while he fumbled for his wallet.
“Show them to him,” said Wilson, nodding at Evans.
Evans stepped forward and took the wallet from the sweating man. “Los Angeles Times, Chris Nodds,” he read aloud.
“And a driving license in the name of Chris Nodds.” He gave the wallet back to Nodds.
“Yeah, I'm Chris Nodds. Press! Let go my arm!” yelped Nodds.
“Never heard of you, Nodds. So here's the deal, college boy.” Wilson kept the pain lock, put his face in Nodds' ear. “When I think of the Times, I think of a guy on city desk whose name is daily public record. I got his direct number. You know who I'm talking about. So. My partner busts you, and I call my friend, and I tell him he don't get tips from Robbery/Homicide anymore because Chris Nodds is in custody for fucking with a police officer. So when you get your one phone call and you call your editor to arrange bail, he already knows you're in the bag and he informs you you're fired and on your own. Or, you get the hell out of here and stop trying to scoop your betters. Begone.” He released Nodds, who trotted to the car wriggling his sore arm.
“Morning,” said Wilson to the black men.
“Good morning sir!” they said, grinning.
Wilson nodded and walked back to the car, grinning too. Evans grinned too, though he was not very glad.
“That policeman, he knows his stuff,” said Ronald Overton.
“That white man won't be throwing his weight around a cop again,” said Jesse Williams.
“He don't like college boys any better than cops in Mississippi did,” said Bill Sampson.
“Your city cop, he hates college boys,” said Ray Jones.
“Don't cops go to college?” asked Jesse Williams.
Ronald Overton said, “They just go to cop school.”
Bill Sampson said, “I should go just to learn how to grab a man like that! That's the way to get his attention!”
“Can you pinch like that, Mr. Evans?” asked Ray Jones.
“Yes, but I don't just grab a white man like that,” said Evans.
“I guess you got to watch your step too, Mr. Evans,” said Jones.
Evans knew that was part of it, but also, he did not like the idea of cops grabbing reporters. Still, Nodds had been out of line and Wilson had solved it. Evans thought it was time to keep the ball rolling.
“That's partly why I have a white partner on this case,” he said.
“Black cop white cop,” said Overton.
“Ha! You got the white man for emphasis,” said Sampson.
“You gonna have him beat truth out of us, Mr. Evans,” asked Williams.
Evans decided not to share that Wilson had offered to do just that. “No, I won't do that. You men are witnesses, not accomplices.”
There was a silence among the men. “You a good man, Mr. Evans,” said Overton. “You know we can't open up about this mess.”
Evans said, “I know that Jim Jackson deserves justice. I know that so far you men are the only chance he's got for justice. I know that I've got to explain to his widow why her husband got shot and nobody is called to answer for it. Then, there's the fact that they also killed another man that night. They can kill again. Okay, so you don't want it to be you. Maybe keeping quiet about it will keep you alive. Maybe not. Maybe it will be some other fellow. For his sake, for your sakes, I want to nail these guys before it happens again.”
None of the men said anything.
A truck rolled up and honked its horn. Evans said, “There's your meal ticket. Better get going.”
None of the men moved.
Bill Sampson said, “I come from Mississippi. It ain't so different here, mister.”
“Meaning you aren't safe?” asked Evans.
“Meaning you're just a black man. You got a badge, but that white reporter stomped all over you. You can't cover for us, Mister Evans.”
“He's talking the truth,” said Ronald Overton.
“I got a wife and two kids,”said Roy Jones. “I can't take chances.”
Another truck pulled up. It was a white Chevy. Evans watched the men carefully. They stared at their feet and remained still. Evans did not think this was duplicity. He felt safely sure this was not the dreaded white Chevy they were refusing to talk about.
He still jotted down the plate number. The truck clattered off down the road.
“You're right about one thing, men. I answer to white men. They won't stand for this much longer.”
“That's the breaks,” said Bill Sampson.
Evans walked back to the blue Ford. Wilson was smoking a cigarette.
“Get anything, Evans?”
“Yes sir,” said Evans. “They love you.”
“Ha! That's good.” Wilson pitched the butt out of the window. “Maybe I should talk to them.”
“I don't think that's necessary sir,” said Evans.
“You've been saying that all morning. And we just have some friends of police work, and no leads. It can't keep going on this way, Evans.”
Evans thought quickly. “Sir, I'll get addresses, and we can follow up at their homes. They may crack away from the others.”
“And maybe not. I think we should start putting some leverage on these guys.”
“Like you did with Nodds? Sir?”
Wilson laughed. “That fat faker! I only did that because he deserved an arrest and we don't have time for the paperwork. I know better than to rough up the press, Evans. I'm not green, but I guess he was.”
“Think there will be a complaint against you, sir?”
“You like the Bible,” said Wilson. “Remember Paul before the Jewish council, when he says he's for the resurrection like one half of them? Or that time he's arrested and beaten, and he waits til the next day to say he's a Roman citizen? You remember those parts?
“Yes I remember them. You saying you got the Holy Spirit with you when you cut up?” Evans was so shocked he forgot the 'sir'. He bit his tongue.
“Hey, that's right, the Spirit was with Paul. No, I mean Paul caught them breaking their own rules. That's the best leverage, Evans, when a man is guilty by his own lights, and you offer to let him catch it.
“I caught Nodds scooping Tim Scott, the Times police beat columnist,” said Wilson. “He should have asked Scott what to do with that lead. Scott would have phoned somebody, and Captain Brewster would feed him as much as we like to share. Then Scott prints it under his name. Nodds can get credit for things like that when he proves himself a good team player. Instead he tried to strike out on his own. It's because he broke his own rule that I could lay into him.”
“If he were a team player you couldn't touch him, sir?” asked Evans.
“Wouldn't like to. Captain Brewster likes team players,” said Wilson.
“So does Lieutenant Freeman,” said Evans.
“And you like playing for your team,” said Wilson.
Evans looked at him for a moment. “Not sure what you mean, Mr. Wilson.”
Wilson stared back at him. “I mean you think you're on the side of those recalcitrant witnesses. You don't want a white man leaning on them.”
Evans said nothing, staring at the road.
“I don't say I blame you for it, Evans,” said Wilson, easily. “But, see, we both answer to people on this murder case. And those bosses are just not going to sit still for it.”
Evans said nothing.
“And our friend Nodds, gives us an angle of leverage,” said Wilson. “We're keeping the press off them. We can stop doing that.”
“That'd be setting them up for a killing,” said Evans.
Wilson stared at him for a long moment. Then he said, “Call me sir.”
“Yes sir,” said Evans.
“We don't have time for waiting on some close-mouthed yokels.”
“We got to restore momentum to this murder case.”
“You can tell me what you think we ought to do.”
“Well go ahead. Tell me.”
“Sir, you go ahead and talk to those men, sir. I can't get more out of them, sir.”
“Okay.” Wilson leaned back and said nothing. Neither did Evans.
“Showtime,” said Wilson. He threw the cigarette away and got out of the car. He became grim and determined. Evans walked with him to the labor line.
Wilson hung his badge in his top coat pocket. He took out a memo pad and pencil. Evans fell into step at his elbow. They approached Ronald Overton first.
“What's this man's name?” Wilson asked Evans.
“Ronald Overton,” said Evans.
“What's your address, Overton?” Wilson asked the older man.
Overton said nothing, but looked at Evans.
“I asked you your address, fellow!” Wilson bellowed.
Overton gave his address.
“Got a phone there? What's the number?” asked Wilson.
He moved down the row of a dozen men. Some tried to fade away, and Wilson charged at them, ordered them back into line. He asked each man for name, address, and telephone number.
A white Ford truck pulled up and honked. Wilson ran to the window. “Police business. Take off and come back later.” The truck pulled away.
The line of laborers slumped.
“All right,” said Wilson. “My name is Detective-Sergeant John Wilson. I am with Robbery/Homicide, and you citizens are a disgrace to the Republic. You have material information regarding the murder of two men, men you knew, and you keep saying you've got nothing to tell us. Detective-Sergeant Evans has been trying to talk with you about this heinous crime, and you Negroes won't give him more than the time of day.
“Now I got your names, I got your addresses, I got telephone numbers. You are going to be bothered in your homes. Those of you with telephones, better answer those calls. The rest of you are going to get knocks on your door. Let me say now, anybody who put down a false address speak up now, or you are facing jail time for interfering with a police investigation.”
“That ain't a wrong address but sometimes I stay with my aunt,” said Jesse Williams.
“Better give me that address, son. Anybody else?” He stared up and down the line.
“All right.” He glared at the black men. Evans sucked in his breath.
“That's it,” said Wilson. “You boys are free to go. Oh, I almost forgot. Take one of Detective-Sergeant Evans' cards. You all take a card, now.” Evans went along the line, handing out cards. Everyone took one.
“That's all. Don't try to duck those phone calls and visits. We won't like it.” Wilson turned and went back into the car. Evans climbed in after him.
“Too damn bad we still have to wait for that Chevy. Maybe you better park along the block a little.”
“Yes sir,” said Evans.
Wilson said, “I don't think you should stand with those men any more. I think we let them steam in their own sweat a little bit.”
“And now you can sit on your ass and smoke to earn your pay.” Wilson grinned.
“Yes sir. Thank you, sir,” said Evans.
Wilson looked at him a short while. “You persuaded me that these Negroes are too square to be wrung out. Also that your stripes aren't just useless decoration. I'll trust your experience on this one, Evans.”
Evans smiled, but he remembered what Bess Manson had said about the need to steal. He had to admit, to himself, that he heard that one too often from the community.
“I wonder why these guys don't find regular work,”
“It appears that isn't the program, sir. They can be hired piecemeal for a time of the boss' choosing. If they don't like it, they can walk off the job, but they won't be hired by that boss again. And the bosses talk about troublemakers.”
“Huh. Sure none of them are Reds?”
“Sir, that man Williams came up from a Mississippi plantation. He held my card upside down; I don't think he can read. I don't think any of them know what a Socialist is.”
“That might be stretching it a bit, Evans.”
“Maybe so sir, but I figure I'd have got more sass from a Red.”
Wilson laughed. “Yeah, they do not know how to shut up.”
Evans got out and trudged back to the truckyard gate. “About what time would Jackson get picked up?”he asked.
Nobody said anything.
“Well, now I'm asking you so I can know when to leave,” laughed Evans. “Otherwise we're staying put as long as you do.”
One of the men said, “Usually we take off about now if nobody come. The truckyard owner open up about 8:00 a.m., and he don't want us standing here while his trucks come and go.”
“Okay, then we'll take off when you do,” said Evans. He went back to the car to wait.
No other white Chevy came. Eventually, the men left. Evans started the car and they drove back to Crocker Center.
Captain Brewster was exasperated. Apparently none of the teams had found out much more than Wilson and Evans.
“We did confirm some bad blood between Jackson and his employers, sir,” said Evans.
“You call that confirmed? We don't even know their names,” huffed Brewster.
“I believe they'll give more details in the days to come, sir,” said Evans.
“Days! What's your report, Wilson?” asked Brewster.
“I let Detective-Sergeant Evans make the approach, Captain, as it seemed likely these men would be hostile to a white officer.”
“Hell! You aren't doing anything at all, Wilson.”
“If Detective-Sergeant Evans thinks a slow approach is going to produce results, then I suppose we should follow his lead, Captain.”
“It's either that or toss it back to the Negro Squad, I guess. I can see why they created the ethnic forces in the first place. Alright, I can't have a Detective-Sergeant cooling his heels all day waiting for work. Take lunch, Wilson, come back, and then take off at three. Be back here by 3:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Evans, you can report back to Lieutenant Freeman. Be back here as well.”
Evans and Wilson headed down the corridor.
“Thanks, Mr. Wilson, for your support back there.”
“Not at all,” said Wilson. “He's got enough sense to see you know what you're doing. Wait and see, huh?”
“That's probably the best course, sir. Irritating, but it should pay off.”
“You must figure those guys are pretty square and level.”
Evans thought. “Yes sir, I do.”
Wilson nodded. “Shoving doesn't work on square guys. I guess you know that.”
Evans said, “I hadn't really thought about it, sir. It doesn't come up very often in our line of work. I think that's more of a patrol officer's trouble.”
Wilson said “You don't say. Hey Evans,” he said as Evans opened the door to the stairwell, “Do you think I offered to use muscle because those men were colored?”
Evans said, “Yes sir, that is what I had thought.”
Wilson grinned. “Well, it wasn't. See you tomorrow.”
Evans drove back to Newton Street, parked the Ford, and went to type his report.
Moses Evans thought about the apparent deal that Robbery/Homicide had with the Times. The Newton Street Division didn't make deals like that. Evans supposed they lacked the leverage, being a unit of black men gathered to fight black crime in ways white men could not. He remembered that he wanted to talk with Lieutenant Freeman. He took his reports to Sergeant Williams and asked to talk to the Lieutenant for a minute.
“Take them in with you,” said Sergeant Williams. “He'll want to read them first.”
Lieutenant Freeman had his feet on his desk. He did not put them down as he greeted Evans, and then held out his hand for the reports. He waved Evans to a chair while he read the report. Freeman read as Teddy Roosevelt had – quick Z's along and down each page. “Well well. By the way, congratulations on cracking that Manson case in a day.”
“It's the Jackson/Elmswood case that has me bothered. I forgot to say 'sir' to Mr. Wilson and he called me on it.”
Freeman waved it away. “He's a Detective-Sergeant. So are you. You'll both get past it. Wilson is a human being. There must be something else bothering you.”
“He wants to crack down on the witnesses.”
Freeman said, “So, then it happens.”
Evans said, “I think it would ruin our best lead on the case.”
“Maybe so,” said Freeman. “But we have to start pushing. They have a third body.”
Evans just stared.
“John Doe”, said Freeman. “Probably some kind of foreigner. Found this morning in an alleyway in just his socks. Looks like his clothing was cut off him. Now, this one is going to be different. For one thing, he was probably shot where he was found. From the front. Nitrate tests on his hands show positive. So he may have been able to fire back. And, he's a circumcised black man, light beard, with prominent tattoos on chest and back and arms, and some weird kind of dental work. Not silver or gold amalgam. Socks were made in China, of all places.”
“That doesn't sound like anybody we know,” said Evans. Tattoos were extremely rare among American black men, as was circumcision, and most either shaved clean or used shaving powder to remove their beards.
“We are checking the port for missing sailors,” said Freeman. “Ballistics is looking at the slugs, but it looks to be a .45, like the Jackson/Elmswood shooting.”
“Doesn't add up,” said Evans. “We thought we knew why Jackson and Elmswood had been killed. This John Doe throws it open. Can it really be a serial killer of black men?”
“Who sometimes let them shoot back? Anyhow who the hell is he?”
“If he's a sailor that might account for the nitrates without any shooting,” said Evans.
“Could be,” said Freeman. “But that's got to wait until we get an ID on the victim. For right now we have to push on the Jackson/Elmswood angle. It's all we have, and we have damned little.” Freeman cracked his knuckles. “The white Chevy truck has never made an appearance. That is, a couple of white Chevy trucks had come by Olivera Street, but the driver was a Mexican each time. We've asked the Department of Motor Vehicles for a search of the plate numbers and a copy of the registration, but that will take a week to process, and anyhow I don't think it's the same truck. I think these laborers are too simple to try and meet that truck in front of one of our detectives.
“Maybe next week somebody will run into that truck trying to hire more laborers, but I doubt it. Seems to me that they've gone to ground. So the best bet is those laborers, and the kid glove treatment isn't getting results. We shouldn't be putting more than a couple of men on this case, and instead we're working two squads. It's getting to you. I see it in you. I read it in your report. I know they're the last thing you do in a workday. It's getting to you.”
Evans sat in his chair with clenched fists at his knees. “We're supposed to protect people like those laborers.”
“Can't save them from themselves. Wilson won't get physical. I've heard good things about him from Brewster. He knows his limits. Do you remember yours?”
Evans said slowly, “I think I'm still learning them.”
“That's progress,” said Freeman. “If I didn't think you boys could manage with white partners, I wouldn't have approved this teaming up with Robbery/Homicide.”
Evans was startled. “I didn't know you had any say about it.”
“I sure did. Captain Brewster wanted it to be a mutually agreed operation. I had a veto. I withheld it.” Freeman sat up straighter in his chair. “Now, it isn't your task to bear the burden of the Negro race. You're not even the only Negro trying to be a good cop. Now, detective, get on home to bed. Tomorrow is a fresh day. Sir the white man when you see him.”
Evans wasn't sure Wilson was still to be trusted. But he admitted that he had failed with the gentle approach, so far. He could not really expect a white man like Brewster to be patient on account of the convenience of Negroes. Then he remembered how Robbery/Homicide had leverage with the Times, and for once he thought of Brewster as more than a fat buffoon, as a shrewd master of leverages unseen to him, all about him, that moved him as well as others unknown to him. And apparently Freeman, too, had his leverages to wield.
Then he realized he was sitting in front of Lieutenant Freeman after he'd been dismissed, and he hastened to leave. He said, “Good night, Lieutenant,” and went home to read the Acts of the Apostles. He wanted to check on what Wilson said about the Apostle Paul.
Valencia Ramos was at the farm office, preparing for a trip through the gate, when Jerry Jake burst through the office door, holding it open for the Professor. The Professor was swearing.
“God damn you! You’ve made it worse than before! I could have lost a lawsuit, but—“ he cut off sharply as they saw Valencia. “In the office,” said Godwrot. They passed by her and slammed the office door. Valencia heard shouting for a few minutes.
She had not seen Rod Thomas again, and she was beginning to accept what that meant about the whole operation. Valencia was not a meek little mouse who didn’t know what shipping opium and elephant ivory through the gate back Home meant, but she was starting to realize why Rod had asked her if she knew how the work force was kept in line. Rod Thomas had been part of that, and he had become a problem himself.
Probably thinking about being in danger warned her subconsciously to be busy when they came out of the office. She got open her filing cabinet and began pulling invoices. Jerry Jake rushed out the office and out the outer door before the office door had stopped moving.
The Professor crept in much more slowly. She heard the door open and his chair roll over the floorboards. She turned. He was staring at her.
“I guess things aren’t going so smoothly,” she said. He raised his eyebrows at her.
“I want to tell you that I’m not lost in the fog or anything,” she said. “I’m aware what we’re doing is illegal, and I just want to enjoy the fruits of my labors.”
He frowned a little, then laughed. “I am so glad you didn’t ask for more money. Because,” he rolled himself backwards, “I don’t have to buy your cooperation. You’re in it up to your neck.”
Valencia nodded, as if she understood, and to some degree she was with him. She was in too deep to persuade anybody she hadn’t known something was very wrong. Thinking about it later, she realized, that even if she’d known exactly what was coming, she’d not have dared to object. Did that make her legally culpable? She didn’t blame herself at all, not at all. She had that talent.
Tom Cooper was proud of being a courthouse deputy. Most of the deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office saw the duty as demeaning, a break from real police work of patrolling the county and making arrests. Cooper was glad to represent his office in a pressed uniform and deal daily with judges and the formalities of holding court session.
At present he was helping secure the judges’ garage, and to the other deputies present, they were little better than glorified parking lot attendants.
“Wonder what’s keeping old Olmstead,” said Deputy Jeff Price.
“Probably a little late reading with a snootful,” said Deputy Mark Gonzalez.
“He’s got a lot on his plate,” said Cooper. Copper respected the judges at the courthouse. He did not notice Price and Gonzalez look at each other.
Gonzalez lit a cigarette, a technical breach of protocol in uniform. Subtly Price and Cooper stepped away from him to talk to each other with their backs to him. “I put in for a transfer back to patrol duty,” said Price. “Gotta run with the posse again.”
“Beats jail duty anyhow,” said Cooper.
“It does at that,” laughed Price.
The courthouse door opened, and Price and Cooper both coughed loudly. Gonzalez’s cigarette flew through the air onto the driveway. Judge Perry Olmstead stepped into the garage, and sniffed at the air.
“Evening, your Honor,” said Cooper. Price touched his cap respectfully.
“Good evening, officer. Everything normal around here?” asked Olmstead, a gaunt older man with sideburns and a pince-nez.
“All in order, sir,” said Cooper.
“Good. I’ll let you get back to your smoke break then,” said the judge severely. He strode off to his cobalt blue Oldsmobile. The deputies looked at each other. Gonzalez shrugged.
Cooper heard the ignition kick over, then felt a blinding flash of heat and a soft pressure on his cheek that was the floor of the garage. Then he felt nothing at all.