"Please state your name for the record?"
I looked at the IA man sitting across from me in the plain room. He wore a classic cheap suit, even cheaper cologne, and drank rapidly cooling coffee from a styrofoam cup that was the only decoration on the blank table.
"Jonathan Blackwolf." I said, bored from repeating it so many times today.
"And you were a member of the Internal Affairs team sent in to investigate harassment charges against the Twenty One Jump Street Chapel?"
"Team?" I snorted. "What team? I was sent in alone."
The IA man looked a little confused. When he squinched his eyebrow together, he looked like a chubby Charlie Chaplin. I tried damn hard not to giggle.
"According to the file, you were supposed to go in as a two man team. Officer Claire Redding was supposed to go in with you."
"She was, but her appendix burst the same morning. Since I was already at the Chapel, my captain figured it was better not to blow my cover. I stayed in."
Charlie Chaplin took another sip of his coffee and cringed. I wondered why he insisted on drinking anymore, but good old Charlie took another drink. The longer I'm a cop, the less I understand other cops.
"So, why were you chosen for this assignment?"
I sighed. He new just as well as I did why I was picked, but I needed to repeat it for the record.
"Because I am young, and have long hair." I responded, almost automatically. You see, I'm Native American. Due to a provision against religious discrimination, I was allowed to keep my hair long. In my culture, in order to cut my hair I needed to go through the Tribal Council.
Not that I really cared. I had left my culture behind. I just really liked my hair. Let's just say, my parents are none to impressed.
Charlie cleared his throat, breaking me out of my thoughts, and then he continued.
"Originally, you were sent in for an harassment claim. Then you witnessed a shooting by..." Charlie paused to consult his file. I personally think he was just sneaking a peak at a Playboy centerfold taped to the file jacket. "Officer Dennis Booker. The victim a fellow officer, one Tom Hanson?"
Ol' Charlie was hunting for something, when he phrased it in the form of a question, but I was as solid as old Alex Trebeck himself. I decided it was best to let the question lie.
"In your opinion, John..." Charlie used my first name as if we were old drinking buddies. "Do you think Officer Booker shot Tom out of malice?"
The question stopped me cold. Not only, by using Tom's name not title, did he make him sound like a victim, but he made Booker sound like pond scum. That wasn't what stunned me, though. It was a typical interrogation tactic. What floored me was that they even had a thought that it may have been attempted murder. What happened was extreme, but not malicious.
"Are we on record?" I asked, just to confirm the fact.
"Good. Did you read the report? Have you ever been under cover? Ever known that your life may depend on how well you can lie? If so, you'd know that what happened was an extreme risk that a cop felt needed to be taken in order to save his life and a fellow officer's. "
*** *** ***
As I sat in Captain Fuller's office, I scraped the last remnants of sleep from my eyes. It was so early in the morning, I was afraid my kidneys weren't even awake. Fuller had been professional, but a little put out by the presence of an interloper "borrowed" from Vice.
Dennis Booker and Tom Hanson were working a gang/drug ring at Taylor High. Affectionately known as Get High, High. It seemed, as I was told, that Hanson's cover had been compromised. A transfer student from another school he had worked at may have recognized him. Since the whole team had worked the case, Fuller felt it prudent to tap an outside source. IA felt it was a perfect way to insert me and Claire. Claire was late. Later I would learn why.
I could hear the captain try and smooth things over with the rest of the team, but I could hear their groans through the thin office walls. Not to mention the door was left open for my benefit. I assume to show me exactly where I stood. Of course I knew that before I stepped into this gig. No undercover operation wanted a newbie. It made for unpredictability. That could be dangerous.
"John?" Fuller called out.
As I stepped out of his office into the main room, I was scrutinized by the most motley crew ever. It did my heart good. My life depended on this group of yahoos?
"This is John Blackwolf from Vice. He'll be put in. Hanson, we'll phase you out within three days. Get him up to speed, and get to work." Without any preamble, Fuller walked back into his office and closed the door. Short and sweet, he left the sheep with the wolves.
*** *** ***
Within a day, I was up to speed. Booker had an "in" with the gang, and was working on the initiation. Hanson was the stoner looking to score.
Hanson was professional but distant.
Booker was downright hostile, and it may have been me, but a touch sarcastic.
Hoffs and Ioki made me feel right at home, and Penhall blatantly ignored me.
It felt like a family reunion.
The next day I was dressed like some leather freak in a heavy metal video, and back in school. I hated it the first time, and wasn't much impressed the second go round.
It took all of about five minutes before I was pegged as a stoner. Ten minutes before some sixteen year old girl was asking me out. Why, oh why, didn't girls look like this when I was young?
Then I was in Social Sciences. The key to being undercover in a school as a drug-addled teen was to look severely bored. I'll tell you, it wasn't much of a stretch. I actually had to keep an eye out, or drool would drop from my slack jaw.
I was so zoned out, that the dismissal bell actually startled me.
As I followed the rest of the herd into the hallways, I became as lost as Eddie Van Halen at a Liberace show. Not to mention they only gave you what seemed to be scant seconds to traverse four miles of marble maze. Then when that second bell goes off, it's a mass exodus. At times, I think kids just jump into whatever room is nearest them at the time, and just snag a convenient desk.
Needless to say, I stood in the hallway alone. That's when I heard the thump coming from the door next to me. It was marked "Men". Boy, that was convenient.
My natural detecting curiosity got the best of me, so I entered the commode to check things out. Booker had Hanson by his jacket front. It didn't take Columbo to notice Dennis had planted Tom firmly there. So firmly that the mirror behind him was cracked in a spider web design.
"What the hell is going on?" I asked, trying to sound authoritative.
Booker let go of Hanson as if the man was on fire, and looked towards me. Tom never wavered his gaze from Booker. He seethed with anger, but knew better than to do anything.
"Nothing," Dennis said, a half smile on his mug. "Just attending to business." Then he pushed past me and out the door.
"You okay?" I asked Hanson.
"Fine," he answered sulkily, and left too. I followed right after him, not satisfied with his answer.
*** *** ***
"So, you witnessed a confrontation earlier that day?" Charlie interrupted.
"Are you going to let me finish, or are you going to keep butting in?" I asked, slightly annoyed. I usually get more peeved when someone answers a question with a question, but I liked jerking Charlie's chain.
"Continue," Charlie offered, slightly miffed at me. Oh well.
*** *** ***
Hanson ducked into his classroom before I could confront him. So, I decided to file it away and report on it later.
By the end of the day, I was approached by three different dealers. The last one was from the gang I needed. I did, however, remember the names of the former two. I was told to meet them in the school parking lot after dark.
After my first big day, I reported to Fuller via the phone that I was making a buy, but neglected to mention Booker and Hanson's tension. I figured I'd give them a chance to come clean first.
Then I went grocery shopping, and caught a flick at the mall. By then it was time to go back to work.
As I pulled into the school lot, there was a bigger crowd than I expected. They had themselves divided. Booker stood with "The gang," about six in all. Then stood Hanson, and a loose group of people around him. It was a group of buyers. Each kept a steady glare at my approaching pea-green '76 Chevy Nova. Jealous, no doubt, of my wheels and paint scheme cleverly disguised as rust.
When I stepped out, they were all relieved I wasn't a narc, or worse yet, a teacher.
I stood away from the collective buyer group. I wasn't sure how to play it. That's when a weasel-looking kid stepped up, with Booker at his side. The kid seemed a bit too cocky, and tough.
"Lady and gentlemen," the weasel kid announced, "it seems we have a bit of a problem. We've been the supply and demand around here for sometime. Now, one of my faithful has betrayed me."
This did not bode well.
Weasel kept going with a cadence that was like a southern preacher. "My you friend here," he gestured to Booker, "has offered to help rectify the situation."
Oh, not well at all. This was Booker's initiation.
"I will not abide with a Narc in my clan of faithful buyers," Weasel said sadly, as my sphincter clenched so tight I almost squeaked.
Without a word, Booker pulled out a revolver, a .38 from the look of it, and shot Hanson full in the chest.
The report of the pistol sent everyone scattering. I hit the deck. Weasel laughed, Booker grinned, and they stalked off into the night.
I rushed to Hanson's side. He was pale, but breathing. My throat was almost as constricted as my butt.
I ripped open Tom's shirt, his chest rising and falling in a shallow rhythm. I never once noticed the absence of blood. That is until I saw the .38 slug imbedded into his bulletproof vest. I think that's when I finally breathed.
Tom grunted, and slowly came to.
"I think he enjoyed that," he grunted out.
*** *** ***
You see, in the bathroom, Tom and Dennis knew that Bobby "Weasel" Miller was in a stall. They set it up so Tom owed him money. Booker would then threaten Tom, Hanson would get scared and transfer out. Thereby phasing him out of the case. It went awry when the kid fingered Tom as a narc. Weasel decided it would be good to see how crazy Dennis truly was. So, he charged Booker with the job. He got word to Tom. All that was in his message was "wear the vest."
Tom did, on the assumption that Booker knew what he was doing. Tom didn't know the plan, but he must have figure it out about the time his chest felt like Hiroshima.
There was no time, so they improvised. It worked out. Tom was phased, Booker was in full, and the whole gang was nabbed. Including conspiracy.
*** *** ***
"Why wasn't all of this in their report?" Charlie finally asked me.
"Off the record?"
Charlie the IA man reached over and hit the pause on his recorder.
"Because, Charlie, he endangered another officer. I have to be truthful in my testimony, but they're covering one another's collective asses. That means it's their word against mine. No charges can be filed."
I stood up, and pulled my leather jacket off the back of the chair. I slid it on casually.
"And Charlie, there's no harassment ether. Best motley crew I've ever met. They do their job... well. They still do it for the right reasons. You and me? Were doing it to prove a point."
I was done. I'd had more than enough. I was going home. Tomorrow, I may need a new job, but tonight I was going home a better man. The Chapel taught me to be who I was. A cop.
As I walked out the door, I heard the IA man mumble, "My name's not Charlie..."